Town Manager Bruce Radford, who guided the Town of Apex through economic highs and lows as well as emergencies, including the 2006 chemical plant explosion, is retiring, he announced Friday.
Radford, who has been Apex’s town manager since 2001, will retire Dec. 21. Radford, 60, said in a letter announcing his retirement that he is looking forward to spending more time with family and staying involved with civic activities. He said he has taken just five vacations in 32 years of work.
He said his decision to retire had nothing to do with political change. Lance Olive was elected as the new mayor earlier this month along with new council member Wesley Moyer.
“My hope is the new mayor, town council, employees and citizens will be graced with great fortune and success in maintaining the incredible lifestyle Apex has come to enjoy,” Radford wrote.
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Radford became town manager 14 years ago, replacing current Apex Mayor Bill Sutton. Sutton encouraged Radford to be a part of local government by hiring him as an intern in Waynesville 32 years ago.
Sutton said Friday he’s proud of how his former intern developed as their careers brought both men back together in Apex.
“I think what he’s done has been commendable,” Sutton said. “What he’s gone through – he’s been through a growth period, then the recession, and now growth periods again. But it doesn’t matter. He’s been a steady hand.”
Radford has worked in city and county management for 32 years, including as the top manager, starting in 1988 in the small coastal city of Washington, N.C. From there he went on to lead Mount Olive, Franklin County, Troy, Selma and Apex.
It will be up to the Town Council, under Olive, to select Radford’s replacement. Olive couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
But Sutton, who didn’t run for a second term as mayor, said the search likely will take several months. He said there could be 100 applicants for the job due to Apex’s good reputation, which he largely credited Radford with building.
In August, Apex was named Money magazine’s No. 1 place to live in the country.
“Bruce has done a great job,” said Sutton, who was town manager from 1993 to 2001. “He’s been there over 14 years, and we got picked the No. 1 place to live. He’s going out on top, you know? Everyone wants to go out on top.”
While elected officials set policy, their votes are often informed by reports from town staff. Town staff are also typically responsible for carrying out the wishes of the council. The town manager’s chief role is to serve as a go-between for the council and the staff.
“Bruce has been a vital part of the town, been very vital to the community and has done a lot for the town of Apex,” said council member Denise Wilkie.
Radford said the town’s staff members are the most “deeply dedicated and committed work force” he has ever worked with, and that the town is in good hands going forward.
Apex did well under Radford. The Money magazine ranking came in large part because of the town’s parks, downtown, low crime, low cost of living and other quality-of-life factors. And the town of 42,000 did it with one of the lowest tax rates in Wake County and one of the smallest local governments in the state, when comparing the ratio of employees per 1,000 residents.
The magazine featured Radford as the face of the town for a video that accompanied the article about the town’s merits.
Radford, wearing a powder blue suit – he’s a huge UNC basketball fan – and speaking in his warm accent, bragged about Apex while scenes of local living rolled by.
“We’d love to have you join us here in the peak of good living, just don’t all come at one time,” he said at the end of the video, with a chuckle and a wide grin.
That smile might be seen more often in Wilmington, where Radford’s daughter Ally lives. He said he’s looking forward to visiting her with his wife, Kelly.
“Lunch on the waterfront on a weekday? I like the sound of that,” he said.
And while he said he plans to travel, he will remain involved in town. He’s in the midst of building a home in downtown and will serve as the next Apex Rotary Club president.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran