SILER CITY — Local officials, Siler City staff and community leaders and residents poured through the door of the Siler City town manager’s office last Thursday, expressing gratitude and …
Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to the News + Record – you can do so by clicking here.
SILER CITY — Local officials, Siler City staff and community leaders and residents poured through the door of the Siler City town manager’s office last Thursday, expressing gratitude and well wishes to Bryan Thompson, who is leaving to assume the position of assistant county manager for Chatham County after six years on the job.
Thompson said one of his greatest accomplishments during his tenure was “working with the board and leadership to develop a pathway toward financial stability, which improves the ability to get grants.”
“Before things happened to us; now we do things,” he said.
Thompson, through his work with the Siler City Board of Commissioners, was able to stabilize the town’s utility enterprise fund, the separate fund for the town’s water and wastewater systems. Prior to the economic downturn a decade ago, the town invested millions of dollars to expand the Charles Turner Reservoir for drinking water and to better support the water needs of the poultry industry. The loss of the poultry industry in 2011 was not only a blow to Siler City’s employment picture, but also the town’s revenue stream.
North Carolina state law mandates that utility enterprise funds remain separate from general tax funds. In addition, if a municipality fails to maintain a successful enterprise fund model, the state reserves the right to take over control from that municipality and potentially even merge the system with other systems in the region. As a result of the difficulties in replacing the lost revenue, the N.C. Treasury Department issued a letter to Siler City in 2013 regarding the financial health of the town’s utility fund. In response, Thompson — who was new to the job — implemented a challenging multi-year program of annual rate increases in order to rebuild the fund and restore it to full financial health.
“Since his arrival in 2013, he had to make some difficult decisions,” Siler City Mayor Pro-Tem Larry Cheek said. “We were able to disagree and agree to come to conclusions for the betterment of the town.”
“His time here has been marked by his careful guidance through the economic downturn,” Siler City Mayor John Grimes said. “The fact that we have made a lot of progress in our infrastructure through grants, we didn’t have to place the burden on the taxpayer for those improvements.”
Throughout Thompson’s time as town manager, the town secured more than $30 million in grants, the majority of which were infrastructure-related — roads and sidewalks, the airport, water and wastewater and parks, including the town’s new swimming pool.
“Our biggest challenge was infrastructure — water and sewer — to make sure we have proper treatment and quality for future growth,” Cheek said.
“The fact that Mountaire decided to locate here,” Grimes said. “I’m sure they looked at the infrastructure.”
Thompson also views the development in town staff as another significant accomplishment.
“The number of employees — many of whom committed most of their lives to the town — retired,” Thompson said. “Many were department heads — police, public works, finance, town clerk — so building a leadership team after of a lot of retirements was an accomplishment.”
“We have a human resources director, a grant writer, we adjusted employee wages where they are very competitive,” Cheek said. “It’s been a great six years.”
Investment in town staff and resources under Thompson’s tenure will also allow for the Siler City Fire Department to have 24-hour coverage for the first time.
“He was a valuable asset to Siler City,” Grimes said. “We gave him the key to the city so he knows he can always open the door and come back. We wish him the best.”
Thompson will assume his new role with Chatham County on July 15. Siler City Finance Director Roy Lynch will take the helm as interim town manager as the Siler City Board of Commissioners continues to conduct interviews for a permanent replacement.