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Wednesday, 11 October 2017 14:07

Haywood manager Dove was valued public servant

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Although Ira Dove’s tenure as Haywood County manager was relatively short, his long service to the county and the contributions he made as manager will ultimately leave him remembered as an integral piece of a rural government working to address larger issues.

A grateful Dove resigned unexpectedly Oct. 3, saying only that it was time; since the public received notice of his resignation Oct. 4, Haywood County commissioners have been tight-lipped as to why, but not as to what Dove — a sharp, thorough public servant who earned a reputation for professional and personal integrity — leaves behind.

Dove spent years in the county’s Department of Social Services — first as an attorney, and later as its director of four years — and became interim county manager following the departure of Marty Stamey on Jan. 1, 2014.

Stamey announced his resignation Oct. 23, 2013, and had served in the post since then-manager David Cotton announced his resignation Nov. 4, 2010, effective the next day.

Dove was in turn promoted to county manager May 5, 2014; then-chairman Mark Swanger said at the time that Dove was “always the smartest person in the room” and called him intelligent, an excellent communicator, a good listener and a good leader with good common sense.

Current Board Chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick — who was also, coincidentally, chairman during Cotton’s departure — said that Dove was an integral part of the team.

“There are lots of department heads, five commissioners and a chairman,” Kirkpatrick said. “I view things that as a county, we work together to get things done.”

Kirkpatrick stressed that he wasn’t taking away from Dove’s effectiveness as a facilitator, but instead didn’t like to ascribe personal credit to any one individual for any specific initiative, including himself.

But as the one charged with implementing county policy — akin to the CEO of a $75 million company with hundreds of employees, expansive facilities and untold amounts of equipment — Dove’s contributions won’t be forgotten.

“He’s been very helpful in that respect,” Kirkpatrick said, mentioning the recent reorganization of the county’s EMS services as something that will likely pay dividends.

“He took the time and reevaluated it, and over time I think that will show to be beneficial,” he said.

Former longtime county employee David Francis agreed with Kirkpatrick’s sentiment and added another of his own.

“One of the first things that jumps out at me is the Francis Farm Landfill,” Francis said of the county purchases of property adjacent to the troublesome landfill — purchases that eliminated the risk of excess gas affecting homeowners.

Of late, the county’s Affordable Housing Task Force was another area in which Dove seemed to be exceptionally dedicated.

“I think he did a great job with that,” Francis said of the 2016 effort to assess housing affordability that resulted in a series of recommendations to be carried out by a nascent advisory board.

Dove’s training as an attorney was also valuable to the commission, Kirkpatrick added.

Conveying the old Health and Human Services Building to Mountain Projects was another area in which Kirkpatrick said Dove was instrumental.

“He dealt with us with respect,” said Patsy Davis, Mountain Projects’ executive director who also co-chaired of the 2016 housing task force. “He valued our contribution to the community and it was always a pleasure to work with Ira.”

Assistant County Manager Stoney Blevins will remain assistant county manager for now.

Kirkpatrick said that the county was operating normally in Dove’s absence, and that it would address the issue of finding a temporary or permanent replacement for Dove — who takes 17 years of Haywood County experience with him — at its next meeting on Monday, Oct. 16.

Dove, Davis explained, served on the board of Mountain Projects and had worked with the group often when he was with the DSS; Davis hopes whoever replaces him follows in that same tradition.

“I’d like to have somebody that realizes the value of human services, and what nonprofits and human services contribute to the citizens of the county,” she said. “Someone who wants to continue the partnerships we’ve developed over the last two decades. United, we’re all stronger.”

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