Catawba County Manager J. Thomas Lundy, who has served with the County since 1972 and has been County Manager since 1979, announced his plans to retire during the Catawba County Board of Commissioners meeting on September 21st in Newton.
Lundy said he will retire effective August 1, 2016, which would provide the notice requested by the Board to recruit and transition to a new County Manager.
“For forty-three years, I have had the privilege and honor of being a Catawba County employee,” Lundy said to the Board. “This county has afforded me the opportunity to grow, learn and manage as I made a contribution to this community, as well as to my profession. I am thankful for that opportunity. When I came to Catawba County as an intern in 1972, I had no idea that I and my family would find a home here, but home it became. Now it is time for change, both for me and for Catawba County.”
“As I look back over my career, I have much to be thankful for,” Lundy added. “First, for my family. My wife, Cindy, has been my best friend and partner. We're both public servants, she in education and I in local government. Our two children, Thackston and Abigail, are both products of the public schools in Catawba County, and are now married with their own families. They've provided me with lots of life lessons, too many joys and proud moments to count, and have always been supportive and interested in my work.”
Tom and Cindy Lundy are proud grandparents of one granddaughter, Ryerson, and are expecting two more grandchildren by early 2016.
“The Board of Commissioners, on behalf of the citizens of Catawba County, certainly appreciate Tom Lundy's management of this great county over nearly four decades,” said Randy Isenhower, Chair of the Board of Commissioners. “We have been extremely fortunate to have Tom's professional, steady leadership. Tom has forged numerous partnerships within and outside the county. His leadership and involvement in national, state and regional organizations reflects favorably on Catawba County. Tom provided consistent administration through very tough economic times in Catawba County. He helped navigate through challenging budget processes, and still provided needed services to our citizens. County budgets have consistently provided strong funding for our excellent educational institutions. Tom assembled a team of hardworking, dedicated county employees who strive to provide timely and needed services to our citizens.”
He and Cindy have ‘given back’ to the county by their involvement in numerous community organizations and activities,” Isenhower added. “Tom exhibits the positive attitude of accomplishment that is indicative of Catawba County citizens. Catawba County has certainly benefitted from Tom Lundy's professionalism, good planning, steady leadership, intelligence, and positive attitude.”
“I've been able to work with twenty-nine different Commissioners and fourteen different boards of commissioners during my career, and I've grown from those experiences,” Lundy said. “Each Commissioner has brought a unique talent, background and interest to his or her role, and has worked with their elected colleagues to set the direction and policy for the County. Disagreements about policy and direction have been discussed and debated civilly and in the public eye. Boards of Commissioners have respected and supported the council-manager plan, and expected the Catawba County organization to be professional, innovative and responsive to citizen needs.”
Born to Methodist missionaries, Lundy grew up in Singapore and the Philippines. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia, double majoring in Political Science and Business and Economics; holds a Masters of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and is a graduate of the Senior Executives Program from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Highlights of his career as County Manager include:
• An emphasis on the importance and value of having professional staff and management which implemented the goals and directives of the Board of Commissioners;
• The establishment of regular cycles of school construction and other infrastructure, first over an eight year period and more recently over four years, in order to keep the County’s tax rate as predictable and steady as possible. Catawba County’s tax rate is currently the eighth lowest among the 27 urban counties in North Carolina with a population over 100,000 and the second lowest among Catawba’s neighboring counties;
• The creation of two different methods of partnering with water-producing municipalities to extend water lines to areas and customers in the unincorporated parts of the county, which has helped meet the need for industrial expansion;
• Following the guidance of the Board of Commissioners, Lundy has produced budgets which consistently dedicated the largest portion of local revenue (property and sales tax) to education. He negotiated with superintendants from the three local school systems a then-unique “Education Compact” in the late 1980s that tied improvements in student performance to increased funding for education;
• Initiated the North Carolina Civic Education Project through the North Carolina City/County Managers Association which started with the creation of new third grade textbook on local government;
• Lundy helped diversify the county workforce to more closely align with the county’s population including the hiring of the first African-American department heads, Personnel Director Marilyn Gilliam in 1985 and Budget Manager Lillie Holmes, and the first female and first African-American Assistant County Managers;
• An emphasis on environmental policies and plans that led to Catawba County becoming the first in the state to offer curbside recycling in 1990. The County has ranked first in the state in the amount of material recycled, per person, over three of the last four years. Catawba County Government has reduced its carbon footprint by 3.53% since 2010 by the use of environmentally-friendly policies and procedures.
• A focus on the use of new technologies, particularly since the beginning of the popular use of the Internet in the late 1990s and the advent of social media since that time. The Center for Digital Government has ranked Catawba County number one among counties across the United States with a population of between 150,000 and 249,999 people in the overall use of technology over two of the last three years.
“I've been very fortunate to work with amazing employees within our sixteen departments,” Lundy told the Board of Commissioners on Monday night. “Catawba County employees are incredibly committed to this community; the people I have worked with have shown leadership and defined public service in ways that have been instrumental in my own development. They're professionals who shoulder incredible stress and daily responsibilities for the safety and welfare of citizens and families, and they provide stellar customer service. They're creative, and have earned Catawba County a reputation for innovation in the state and nation that is richly deserved.
“And the Catawba County community is outstanding,” Lundy continued. “The strong work ethic, the spirit of producing quality, the "can-do" attitude, the blend of fiscal conservatism and progressive government, the intense collaboration that is almost second nature between and among the private, public and non-profit sectors--all have made Catawba County a great place to live and manage.”
Lundy has served as president of the International City/County Management Association, as well as the National Association of County Administrators and the North Carolina City and County Management Association. He is an ICMA Credentialed Manager, currently chair of the Board of Directors of the ICMA Retirement Corporation and is a member of the Alliance for Innovation Board of Directors.
He has served on a wide variety of local and regional boards and committees, including all three phases of the Catawba County FORESIGHT Long Range Planning Committee. He has served on the Habitat for Humanity Board and the Chamber of Commerce Board. He has been a member and president of the Hickory Community Theater Board; chair of the Eastern Catawba County United Way and co-chair of the process that merged two United Way organizations into one; and board member and president of the Catawba Valley Youth Soccer Association. He has taught at Lenoir-Rhyne University and in the UNC-Chapel Hill Master of Public Administration program and has been active at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Hickory and First United Methodist Church in Newton.
Lundy has won numerous awards and honors during his career. He was the first professional manager to receive the Ayers-Hauser Award, which is given only on occasion by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners to a public official who has had an outstanding record of service on the local, state and national level. He is a recipient of the Long Leaf Pine Award. He is also a Fellow in the National Academy of Public Administration, a member of the Lenoir-Rhyne College chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national honor society for political science associations, and an honorary member of Pi Alpha Alpha, the national honors society for public affairs and public administration, of North Carolina State University.
The Board of Commissioners will begin discussing plans to advertise for and recruit the next County Manager in the near future. Lundy said that he would be available to assist with the transition, if needed, if his successor is named prior to August 1, 2016, or continue to serve for thirty days beyond that date if needed.
“The work of local government is never done, but Catawba County has always handled transitions well,” Lundy said. “The County has planned and made good decisions for the future. This upcoming transition will be no different, as the Board of Commissioners takes the necessary steps to ensure the County is managed well in the years ahead.”