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home : opinion : opinion September 27, 2022

6/30/2022 1:54:00 PM
Kelly Atkins: Letter to the Citizens

Reflecting back over my 31 years with Lincoln County Government is nothing short of memorable.  However, for the purpose of this letter to my fellow citizens, I will only reflect on tmy time as  County Manager for Lincoln County.  It seems like yesterday, I attended the December 2014 Board of Commissioner’s meeting where the board appointed me as County Manager. 

I recall thanking the board for considering me for this honorable position and asking them to have patience as I acclimated to my new position.  Being with Lincoln County Government as long as I had in other roles, I knew we were already behind preparing the initial budget information for our first budget workshop.  I worked day and night for the first seven months to achieve passage of my first recommended budget in 2015. 

While my first year as manager was met with many challenges, I never allowed myself to become overly consumed with one issue over another.  When you are working with thirty departments and multiple outside agencies, you must be able to move quickly from one situation to another.  Clearly, there were some issues that required much more thought and time than others but I always tried to think of problems as an opportunity to improve or generate desirable outcomes.  When situations arise, the manager must be willing and capable of finding the most appropriate actions and solutions for the greater good.

I was born right here in Lincoln County and while I have observed many changes over the past fifty-two years, I continue to fully embrace this wonderful county and its citizens.  When I conducted my first staff meeting of all the Lincoln County departments, I explained my number one goal for every department is for them to attain and maintain the best customer service possible.  Lucky for me, we have so many great employees here in Lincoln County that this was not a difficult goal to achieve.  Obviously, there was the occasional customer service issue but for the better part of the last nine years, there have only been a few. 

Over the past nine years we made a lot of progress in so many areas of the county.  This is not to say there’s not room for improvement in other areas but I am proud of the positive steps we have made. I am so fortunate to have been surrounded by so many talented individuals.  With the help of the citizens, county employees, and our elected commissioners, the following is an overview of some of our collective accomplishments:

  • Achieved and maintained No-Kill Status (Animal Services)
  • Renovated the James Warren Citizens Center.  Remodeled auditorium/Repurposed third floor for Planning and Inspections/Created a payment center on the first floor
  • Renovated the old jail into the Adult Probation Office
  • Renovated the old hospital into the Health Department
  • Renovated the old RB Cronland buildings into Public Utilities/Grounds/Maintenance/TLC/Board of Elections/Library book(s) intake and distribution
  • Renovated the Board of Education building to house County Board of Commissioners meeting room/County Administration including County Manager, County Attorney, Purchasing, Finance, Human Resources, Clerk to the Board of Commissioners
  • Renovated the Academy Street building to house Veterans Services and Recreation
  • Renovated the Medical Arts building beside the old hospital to house Register of Deeds, Juvenile Probation, and the new Public Defender Office
  • Renovated old doctor’s office off East Gaston Extension to house Senior Services
  • Constructed new Courthouse
  • Constructed new Library in West Lincoln
  • Creation of new park in West Lincoln (Westward Trails)
  • Improvement of several existing parks in Lincoln County
  • Constructed a new 9-1-1 Center
  • Purchased land for Economic Development in the near future
  • Currently building the new Emergency Services Building
  • Currently designing the new Animal Services Building
  • In process of designing the addition to the Sheriff’s Office (Jail expansion)
  • New convenience site at Optimist Club Road
  • (Future) business park near the Lincolnton/Lincoln County Regional Airport
  • Highway 73 waterline project
  • Reepsville Road waterline project (in-progress)
  • Water treatment plant expansion
  • Waste-water treatment plant expansion (in-progress)
  • Improved relations with the City of Lincolnton (multiple shared services now in place)
  • Increased Lincoln County School budget
  • Assisted several special projects for the Lincoln County Schools
  • Completed two salary studies and increased employee salaries to be more competitive
  • Purchased Viper communications to replace an outdated radio service
  • Continued working closely with Economic Development to increase the number of industries located in Lincoln County
  • Renovation of the Lincoln County Tax Department (2022-2023)
  • Dealt with the COVID Pandemic by setting up clinics for testing and vaccines
  • Ongoing communication with NCDOT to improve our traffic issues in Lincoln County
  • Increased department staff to better handle a growing county
  • Consolidated several departments to improve communication and to be more responsive
  • Participated in public/private partnerships to improve road-side litter
  • Worked with the school systems to achieve the quarter-cent sales tax for schools
  • Completed beautification project at the Lincolnton/Lincoln County Reginal Airport
  • Improved our bond ratings with the rating agencies
  • Increased our fund balance and created a capital fund reserve (in order to reduce future debt)
  • Maintained a favorable property tax rate for a county our size
  • Completed renovations at the Lincoln Cultural Center
  • Built additional parking in Lincolnton
  • Corrected outside water issues at Shanklin Library
  • Currently conducting a library study for facilities in East Lincoln and Lincolnton
  • Currently working on the Land Use Plan/Public Utilities plan
  • Working with the City of Lincolnton/UNC SOG consultants to decide the best use of the existing courthouse in downtown Lincolnton
  • Updated the Lincoln County Website
  • Working towards a new and much needed firearms qualification range for law enforcement
  • Became more of a partner with DABA to entertain the citizens with Fireworks and Music entertainment each year near the 4th of July
  • Currently looking to increase recreational opportunities in Ironton and Catawba Springs
  • Developed a debt policy for Lincoln County
  • Improved equipment for Sheriff’s Deputies, EMT’s, Animal Control Officers, Emergency Management and Fire Marshal.
  • Maintained debt at an acceptable level
  • Improved technology for all offices
  • Public/private partnership to improve fiber in remote parts of Lincoln County (on-going)

As previously stated, the improvements in Lincoln County will never end; however, I am very proud of all the positive steps we have made over the past nine years.  I am forever grateful for the trust the Board and citizens put in me.  There are no words for how appreciative I am for the opportunity to serve the citizens of Lincoln County for the last 32 years.  I can honestly say my career has been very fulfilling and I just hope my work ethic and desire to be transparent is known by all.  As I end this letter, I am reminded of something a former commissioner told me many years ago: “You are the captain of the ship and your ship will always sail if you surround yourself with employees that are smarter than you.”  This was a very true statement then and it is today. 

In closing, thank you for allowing me to be part of your lives either directly or indirectly, I will forever be grateful for all the opportunities to serve the citizens of this beautiful county.  I am often reminded of the words of Mel Burchard “Be yourself.  Be honest.  Do your best.  Take care of your family.  Treat people with respect.  Follow your dreams.” 

Thank you

Kelly Atkins



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