Ashe County Manager resigns

Dylan Lightfoot Staff Writer

August 20, 2013

Ashe County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell announced her resignation this morning in response to a motion by the Board of Commissioners yesterday that she resign or be dismissed.

In a 3-2 decision, commissioners Gary Roark, Gerald Price and Judy Poe voted to remove Mitchell after an executive session yesterday, with Commissioner Williams Sands and Chairman Rhodes dissenting.

Without discussion, Roark, Price and Poe in open session moved that “the county manager be dismissed unless she submits her resignation by 8 a.m. Aug. 20, (and that) in either event she be compensated through the end of August.” Mitchell was given the option of resigning or retiring in lieu of dismissal.

Mitchell, who was excluded from the executive session, said the vote came as a complete surprise. The board was “perfectly silent” when asked to give reasons for their decision, she said.

Poe this morning declined to comment on the resignation, saying she had not yet heard from Mitchell. Attempts to reach Roark and Price for comment were unsuccessful.

Rhodes said he saw no cause for dismissing Mitchell. “There's no rhyme or reason,” he said.

“If anything, she worked too much — endless hours,” he said. “We're a whole lot better off in Ashe County because of her.”

Mitchell came to work this morning as usual, and drove to Raleigh for a meeting with N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker, Rhodes said.

Sands expressed “shock, surprise and disappointment,” saying “it was a mistake.”

“We have so much going for us in the county. I don't know how this is going to affect it,” he said.

Mitchell gave her version of events and explained her decision in an open letter to Rhodes dated Tuesday, Aug. 20:

“In order to discharge my duties and responsibilities effectively, my position requires the support of (at) least a majority of the Board. As a result of yesterday's events and the political maneuvering of some commissioners, it has become apparent that, by the slimmest of majorities, I no longer enjoy the political support necessary to serve professionally and productively as the Ashe County Manager.

“Moreover, despite repeated request for information and details, I have been provided with no information or explanation whatsoever for the reasons for this sudden and unexpected withdrawal of support.

“Under these unfortunate circumstances, the only appropriate response serving the overriding interest of Ashe County, if citizens and the fine employees with whom I have been associated is to resign my position effective Aug. 31, 2013, subject to the satisfaction and performance of the end-of-service benefits stated and acknowledged by the Board in open session yesterday.”

Two managers in two years

With Mitchell's departure, the BOC has accepted resignations from two county managers in as many years.

In July 2011, Dan McMillan's resignation was approved 4-1Rhodes dissenting — with the board offering him a severance including five months compensation.

In another 4-1 vote, Mitchell, the county's former director of economic development, was appointed county manager in January 2012, after serving five months as interim county manager.

“To this day, I have seen no reason for (Dan McMillan's) dismissal,” Rhodes said this morning. “I see no reason for dismissing Dr. Mitchell.”

Editor's note: This story has been corrected. The orginal version incorrectly dated Dr. Pat Mitchell's appointment December 2011. Mitchell was appointed January 3, 2012.