DOBSON — Town Manager Josh Smith is leaving Dobson to accept an assistant city manager’s job in Concord.
Smith announced his coming departure late Friday afternoon, after spending the day meeting individually with the Dobson commissioners to inform them of his resignation.
His final day will be June 15.
Smith said he has enjoyed his time in Dobson — more than seven years as town manager — and will miss the town and its people.
“It (the resignation) had absolutely nothing to do with anything going on here,” he said. “I am very, very happy here; I have an incredible board, an incredible staff … this is a wonderful community.
“I just had that urge, over the past couple of months, to explore opportunities,” he continued. “I have a community servant’s heart. I wanted to get out there and make the biggest difference I could for the most people I could.”
Smith, who served as a Winston-Salem police officer and detective for six years prior to taking the town manager post in Dobson, said that’s why he left law enforcement for the Dobson position, and that’s why he’s moving to a larger city now. Concord, a few miles northeast of Charlotte, had an estimated population of about 90,000 as of July 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Smith assumed the Dobson post in 2011 in the wake of financial problems and irregularities uncovered in the town office. The town clerk and secretary had both walked off the job, followed shortly by the board putting the former town manager on suspension before eventually parting ways with her.
Since Smith assumed the manager position, the town has become financially stronger, with a number of new infrastructure and recreation projects either completed or underway.
The town water plant is awaiting final federal regulatory approval for what he called a “complete overhaul;” a streetscape project which will include decorative lampposts and lighting in the town is about to begin; and the popular Dobson Square Park has been built. Much of the work has been, or will be, financed with grant money Smith and his staff have secured for the town.
“I think something that’s very important is we’re in tremendous financial shape,” he said. “I don’t mean we have a lot of money in the bank, but we’ve put ourselves in a position where we’ve repaired and upgraded infrastructure without increasing our tax rates … with minimal increase to our water and sewer rates.
“The culture we’ve created as far as the community is one of openness.”
He’s also gratified by increased recreational opportunities through fairs, parades and street festivals.
“I think when I came here we had maybe one a year. Now, we have 20 or more recreational events. … All of it provides time for the community, opportunities for neighbors to come out and just hang out together.”
While those improvements have come under his time there, Smith is quick to point toward his board of commissioners and staff for much of the credit.
During an interview with The Mount Airy News in April, Smith said he was blessed to work with commissioners he respected and liked, and described the staff members of the town as “visionaries” who share a commitment to improve the quality of life for Dobson residents.
Smith said his new post will definitely offer its share of challenges.
“It’s going to be a huge difference,” he said Friday. “I’m going to probably walk in day one, look around and be a little overwhelmed. … The town there runs their own electrical system, their own fiber network, they do their own fleet maintenance. From an operational standpoint, it’s going to be quite different. But … I’m embracing that challenge. It will be a steep learning curve.”
Smith starts his new post Jun 18. He, wife Monica, and children Kylie and Dakota, will be moving to Concord, making the new job a little bittersweet.
“We’re going to miss this community. … We’re leaving a lot behind here; it’s going to be tough for all of us, we’ve built lasting friendships here, and that’s not something you leave easily.
“But I’m looking forward to the challenges. It’ll be one of those challenges that’ll be fun.”