Woodfin – After only 18 months into the job, Woodfin Town Administrator Eric Hardy calls it quits. Hardy, 63, joined the town in July of last year following the death of long-time Town Administrator Jason Young. Hardy gave his notice that he will be leaving his $129K a year job by the end of the year.
The Tribune asked Hardy for a copy of his resignation letter, but he replied, “I did not permit the release of that letter and will not share it. I have no public comment on my personal decision.” He also stressed the letter’s confidentiality.
Not all recipients of the resignation letter, however, honored Hardy’s wishes for it’s contents to remain private. An article in the Citizen-Times’ (CT) website claims to have extracted excerpts from the letter. Hardy addressed those leaked portions and confirmed its authenticity when asked about it, saying, “Yep. Someone didn’t honor the confidentiality of that letter.”
What the CT printed from the letter
The CT article reports that Hardy’s choice to resign “relates largely to the hostility directed at elected officials and town staff during the last ten months. Half-truths, accusations, conspiracy theories, and legal actions continue to escalate, allowing too little room for this administrator to function in a meaningful way.” Much of this “hostility” is coming from residents who have accused the board of being too close to a Florida developer who wants to build 1500-units near Asheville’s Richmond Hills community located on the Woodfin border.
They also come from residents of the Blueberry Hill community, where a developer is looking to get his property rezoned to allow a storage facility to be built.
CT reported that Hardy said in the letter, “It has been my pleasure to serve the community, and I am confident this capable staff will continue to support the Town Board and public.”
Hardy has not kept his desires for retirement secret. Just this year he told the Tribune that he had his retirement date set on his smartphone using a countdown app. However, he did exit sooner rather than his originally scheduled retirement date.
Reaction from new members of the commissioners
Just about a month ago, voters of the town chose to turn out and push out three long-time commissioners in favor of fresh blood. The three are due to be seated in December. The Tribune asked them for comment about the departure of Hardy.
“It’s a tragic loss for the town and that he jumped into the fire head-first and accomplished much,” said Commissioner Elect Jim MacAlister, who has been on the town’s planning and zoning board of adjustments for some time where he served as vice-chairman before being elected to the board.
Commissioner-Elect Hazel Thorton told the Tribune, “Mr. Hardy’s departure is a big blow to the town. I have never known him to be anything less than a straightforward professional. So if he is telling us that he can no longer fulfill his duties due to a toxic work environment, then my heart goes out to him. He deserves better, and those of us who are remaining in town government needs to understand what has happened in order to prevent it from happening again.”
She added, “from a personal standpoint, I am very disappointed. Finding a replacement with Mr. Hardy’s level of wisdom and experience will be very challenging.”
While Hardy was Town Administrator
Hardy hit the ground running when he joined Woodfin to make a number of changes, adding staff and making improvements to the presentation of agendas and to the technology used by the town. Some of the Town’s accomplishments during Hardy’s tenure include:
• Continued Jason Young’s legacy through the Greenway & Blueway project
• Secured approval (from the NC Local Government Commission) to sell $3.0 million (of $4.5 million authorized) general obligation bonds for Greenway and Blueway
• Awarded $600,000 in grants to develop and expand public parks
• Hired a dedicated project manager
• Utilized an objective pavement condition scoring system to guide street improvements
• Secured the public storm drain system inventory and map to better address stormwater infrastructure maintenance
• Launched 2022 Comprehensive Plan
• Initiated major overhaul of the town’s land use ordinances and processes
• Launched new town website
• Designed and guided newly formed Parks & Greenways advisory committee
• Shored up controls over town spending and contracting
• Expanded budget process to include five-year capital improvement plan and financial forecast
• Added and staffed five key positions – Planning Director, Finance Director, two police sergeants, Project and Facilities Manager
• Expanded employee benefits without increasing annual budget
• Defined a position classification plan and adjusted employee salaries to better reflect labor market rates
• Initiated revisions to Personnel and Purchasing policies
• Replaced and added public works vehicles/equipment to provide street maintenance and sanitation services
• Continued support for police department fleet replacement
Hardy told the Tribune, “It should go without saying that few of these were individual efforts. Funny how much one town’s staff can accomplish with the right people in the right spots.”
He also said, “I have offered my services to the town for special projects after the 30-day break required by the retirement system. It would not be responsible for me to leave town staff unsupported on many of the initiatives listed above.” Adding, “The Town Board is considering its options to find a permanent replacement and is likely to make an announcement on December 21st (next commissioners’ meeting) regarding an interim appointment. This could come sooner, but these are questions for the mayor.”