Larry South, an Ashe County native and town manager of Hillsville, Va., for almost 19 years, was unanimously chosen Thursday night by the North Wilkesboro town board as the new manager.
South has accepted the position and will begin here Monday, Dec. 3, after finding a residence in the town. His wife and children plan to remain in Hillsville for the remainder of the school year.
North Wilkesboro Mayor Robert Johnson said South has agreed to a starting salary of $83,116, which is higher than the advertised starting salary of $75,000 for the position but lower than the $87,000 that the town was paying former Town Manager Hank Perkins when he announced his resignation in June.
Perkins resigned to accept the position as town manager in Lewisville. Former Wilkes County Manager Cecil Wood has served as the town’s interim manager since July 6.
South, who had served for 18 years, 10 months as Hillsville town manager without a contract, resigned along with Police Chief Steve Williams following a closed session at the conclusion of a Hillsville town council meeting this past summer. His last day was June 29.
“There was a mayoral change and a change in the makeup of the town council,” said South. “Three of the five council members made public statements that the police chief and I wouldn’t be a good fit with the new team.
“Now, I’m excited and looking forward to this opportunity in North Wilkesboro,” South added. “I appreciate the opportunity that the commissioners have given me and the confidence they have shown in me. Being a former Ashe County boy, it’s almost like coming back home.”
South said he grew up in Glendale Springs, and his parents, Glen and Vilena South, live on the New River in Ashe.
“This will be like coming home to me,” he said. “When I was young, I’d bring dates down the mountain to North Wilkesboro to go to the bowling alley and other places. I’m sure I’ll run into a lot of old friends when I get down there.”
Education, work experience
South graduated from Appalachian State with a bachelor’s of science degree with a major in business administration and a minor in political science. He served as Ashe County manager for four years and later worked in Raleigh for the Division of Environment, Health and Natural Resources for 18 months before succeeding former Wilkes County Manager John Barber as the Davie County manager for 3½ years. From Davie, he moved to Hillsville.
South has two daughters from a previous marriage who still live in Ashe. He and his wife, Shelia, have two daughters, Savannah 15, and Mallory, 10.
“He fit our requirements to a tee,” said Johnson, who managed the negotiations for the town. “He seems to be a down to earth guy…a people person.”
Bert Hall made the motion to hire South.
When asked by an audience member how old South (who was not at the meeting) was, Hall replied, “That was a question we couldn’t ask (during the interview process). But if I had to guess, I’d say he’s about my age,” adding with a smile, “which is 39.”
Hall is 55.
South is 56.
Commissioner Bart Hayes thanked Wood for serving as interim manager. Hall added, “I did all I could do except get down on my knees to beg Cecil to stay on.”
“Cecil said he would come back any time we needed him to help and wouldn’t charge us,” said the mayor.
Commissioner Debbie Ferguson told Wood, “I’m sure it wasn’t easy for you to step into the water intake project.”
Wood, with a smile, said, “I like a challenge occasionally. It was a team effort.”
“But you were the leader of the team,” said Hall.