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‘When business meets technology’: New assistant county manager plays key role in adjusting services

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The county management staff has played a key role in ensuring county departments can conduct services remotely or with reduced staffs, and newly promoted assistant county manager Randy Cress has used his technology expertise to help the departments adjust.

Randy Cress

The Rowan County native added the role of assistant county manager to his job title on March 3, and has served as the county’s chief information officer since October 2015. A West Rowan High School alumnus, he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration Information Technology degree from Catawba College in 2006, then earned a Master’s in Public Administration from Appalachian State University with the Winston-Salem cohort in 2012.

Upon the promotion, Cress’ new projects included reviewing processes and procedures to enhance the delivery of inspections and permitting for citizens and businesses by working with Planning and Development, Building Inspections, Environmental Health and Fire Inspections departments. Cress said the multi-year project requires him to conduct development review of each department and understand department structures and the software used to eventually allow citizens to conduct and pay for services online, such as building permits and inspections services.

“(Cress) will lead several departments through a transformation that will focus on modernization of the county’s entire permitting and inspection process from start to finish with a strong focus on customer service to all applicants,” said County Manager Aaron Church when Cress was promoted in March. “This will be a complex process that will take two to three years to implement.”

Additionally, Cress said he’s been working closely with Church and Assistant County Manager and Finance Director Leslie Heidrick to continue providing effective and modern public administration for Rowan County residents.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his efforts have shifted to assist each department in adjusting how it operates to continue providing services for the county. His role requires a daily review of changes in guidance from federal and state agencies, the supply chain, vendor review and internal staff policies.

Technology has been key in allowing county departments to operate with a reduced staff or from home. The first steps in the adjustment included ensuring that staff members had the appropriate devices and internet connection to use their software before determining who would be working from home. Additionally, Cress assisted department directors with managing phone calls and changing the phone number as needed, as well as allowing some services to be provided online, such as filling out building inspection forms and requests for marriage licenses.

A full list of each department’s operational changes, as well as other coronavirus-related information, can be viewed on the county website at rowancountync.gov/COVID-19. 

The primary difficulty when the adjustments were first being made was the supply in phones and devices as “everything was back-ordered and delayed,” Cress said.

“I have an awesome team within the Information Technology department that is able to prepare and deploy solutions and (I’m) as equally proud of the County departments for being receptive and embracing of this rapid adoption of technology under pressure,” Cress said.

Over the last five years, the Information Technology department has been restructured to improve IT services by implementing cloud-based application delivery, geospatial programs, business technology processes and social media, Church said.

Cress has placed an emphasis on cybersecurity and awareness training for all county employees. His department received the National Digital Counties Survey Award in both 2017 and 2019 for maximizing the value of technology in serving the county with innovative initiatives.

“I love the challenge,” Cress said about his new role, adding that he’s always worked with internal departments. “This is when business meets technology.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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