County leaders praise outgoing Durham County Manager Ruffin

CorrespondentJuly 31, 2013 

Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin

DURHAM COUNTY

When Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin retires at the end of January, he will leave behind a legacy of fiscal responsibility and capital improvements, county leaders say.

Ruffin told the Board of County Commissioners Monday night he plans to retire effective Jan. 31, 2014, so he and his wife can move to the Charlotte area to care for his aging in-laws.

“We have a much healthier fund balance,” said longtime County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow, “and we are in definitely the strongest financial position we’ve been in in perhaps the county’s history, and I know in my tenure, 25 years.”

Board Chairman Fred Foster also praised Ruffin for putting the county on a sound fiscal footing, although the two didn’t always see eye to eye in Foster’s brief time on the board so far.

Foster cast the lone vote against the county’s fiscal 2013-14 budget because of a 3-cent property tax rate increase Ruffin recommended.

“I wish he didn’t have to go, but family comes first,” Foster said.

Foster said the search to replace Ruffin, which will be a challenge with Orange and Wake counties also searching for new managers, has already begun.

“It’s my hope that when (Ruffin) steps out the door, the new guy or gal will be able to step in,” Foster said. “If not, we have some good deputy managers.”

Reckhow also expressed hope that six months will be ample time to find a new county manager in a national search and that it will not be necessary to appoint an interim manager.

“I feel like Durham County should be a prime place for someone to want to come,” Reckhow said. “We have an excellent economy here. We have a great fiscal position. We are in a good situation. We are seeing not only new companies coming but existing companies decide to expand.”

Reckhow also pointed out Ruffin’s record of getting capital improvements done on time and within budget, except for the Human Services Complex, which experienced some construction difficulties.

She pointed to the library system, where there was a need for many new facilities, including the first branch in eastern Durham County.

And Reckhow pointed to Ruffin’s role in getting the new courthouse built.

“It’s been a long haul, but we’re very proud of our new courthouse and we think it’s in an excellent location,” Reckhow said.

Reckhow also praised Ruffin’s ability to hire good managers.

“We have won over his tenure many national and state awards, and I think a lot of it is due to the excellent staff leadership we have within the organization,” Reckhow said.

Ruffin also earned the acclaim of fellow county managers such as Orange County’s Frank Clifton, who announced in June his intention to resign effective in September.

“You look at the facilities that have been built within the last few years,” Clifton said. “how the county has focused on economic development and working closely with the city on economic development efforts and just improving governmental services to the public, and doing so in a professional, efficient manner.

“I think even those that might criticize a particular project would still have to recognize that the projects were done well and the outcomes were always things that enhanced governmental services for the citizens of Durham,” Clifton said.

At Monday’s meeting, Ruffin thanked in his letter all 13 county commissioners he has worked for during his 14-year tenure at Durham County government.

“I want to personally thank each one of you and them for the privilege to serve a county that provides an example across the country of what a high-performing county can and should be,” he said. “Indeed, we are known nationally as an innovative, forward-thinking county government that provides high-quality services to our residents.”

Before coming to Durham County in 2000, Ruffin held similar posts in the Atlanta, Charlotte, and the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area during a nearly 36-year span.

Goad: 919-536-8549

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