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Laurel Park town manager moving to key role with county

Christopher Todd, Laurel Park’s town manager since July of 2019, is moving a short hop east to become Henderson County’s director of business and community development, a role that guides the more complex and politically delicate projects the Board of Commissioners authorizes.

Laurel Park Mayor Carey O’Cain announced Todd’s departure Tuesday morning as he opened a special called meeting to discuss the process for hiring a replacement.
“It’s regrettable that Chris is leaving us after a short time but he sure did accomplish a lot,” O’Cain said. “It is our loss but the county’s gain and that means it’s a gain for the overall community.”
John Mitchell, who took over as county manager in July after Steve Wyatt retired, picked Todd to take over his old job, which requires navigating difficult shoals, bringing expensive construction projects to completion and serving as a liaison to other governmental bodies and the business community.
“It’s a tough job to hire for because you’ve got to have expertise in planning and zoning and code enforcement, know something about building projects and have an understanding of the way government interacts and works together,” Mitchell said. “It’s always good to have someone to talk to and to represent the county at the economic development coalition and interact with the schools. ... My belief is Chris will hit the ground running and be able to manage those projects.”
A Florida native, Todd earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from Appalachian State University in 2012 and dual master’s degrees in geography and public administration, also from ASU, in 2017. He came to work as a land planner with Henderson County in 2015 and went on to serve as town manager of Sawmills, a small town near Lenior.
“It’s the second time I’ve hired Chris,” Mitchell said. “I believe I gave him his first job in local government when I hired him at the Planning Department. He’s gone on to be a manager of two towns in North Carolina. What I really look for in that position is somebody who can bring the level of customer service I expect and I know board does too. We’ve got a very business friendly community and we want to make sure that we stay that way.”

O’Cain said Todd in just over two years in Laurel Park had led the complex rewrite and adoption of the town’s unified development ordinance, been involved in negotiations to give the town’s water system to the city of Hendersonville and managed department heads well. Todd, who leaves the town job on Nov. 5, will earn $110,000 a year in his new position.

“We have a limited budget because of the size of our town,” O’Cain said. “We could not compete with the salaries that the county could pay. It’s just prudent for us to manage the way we do by getting (former manager) Alison (Alexander) and Chris in here. We’ve accomplished a lot because we have that youthful enthusiasm. These people go after grants and they go after opportunities.”

O’Cain said in an interview after the closed meeting that the town board reviewed the job description and agreed to post it later this week on the League of Municipalities site and other job boards. The board sketched out a timeline to receive applications by Nov. 30, then narrow the field and interview finalists with the hope of having a new manager on board by February. The town plans to bring in Mike Morgan as interim manager, who also filled that role between Alexander’s departure and Todd’s hiring.