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‘She always brought a smile:’ Dickert leaves behind positive legacy at Rowan EDC

SALISBURY — Most kids relish the long days of summer when they’re out of school and can spend every minute of free time playing.

During the summers of Bettina Dickert’s youth, she loved going to work.

Dickert enjoyed carefree days outside like everybody else, but was especially excited about the days when she could go into the office with her grandfather, Preston Barber, who worked at Thompson Veneer in Cleveland.

“I remember going to business as a little girl, sitting there making little stamps on things like ‘paid,’ ” Dickert said. “I’d get to play with that and it just appealed to me.”

Dickert’s early love of office work, and specifically counting, eventually translated into a career working in a financial capacity for “pretty much everybody in Rowan County.”

After spending the last 17 years with the Rowan Economic Development Commission, Dickert will retire as the organization’s longest tenured employee at the end of 2020.

“It’ll be tougher for me than maybe anyone else because I’ve worked with her the longest,” said Scott Shelton, who has acted as Rowan EDC’s vice president since 2009. “She’s worked hard her whole life so I’m happy she’s able to retire and enjoy her husband, her grandkids, her son. I’m happy for her, but it’s truly with bittersweet emotions.”

Dickert’s family has deep roots in Rowan County, but she was born in the coastal town of Elizabeth City. Every summer she would visit Cleveland, which her brother always called “God’s country,” to spend time with both sets of her grandparents. One set operated a dairy farm, where she remembers riding on a tractor with her grandfather, who she calls “Grandpa Myers,” and has fond memories of an old horse named Dolly.

Her cherished moments with her other grandfather, Preston Barber, were spent in his office at Thompson Veneer. Barber was also the treasurer of his local church.

During her senior year of high school, Dickert moved to Rowan County.

“It really was great because all my relatives were here,” Dickert said. “I came here to live with my grandparents and finish my school year. Both sets of grandparents were here and alive at the time, and that was nice. I got to have time with them.”

She finished school at West Rowan and went on to get her associate degree in businesses and finance from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

After graduating from RCCC, Dickert went to work at her uncle’s saw mill. From there, she worked in finance for an electrical company, did a stint with the school system in payroll and was employed with the county before being hired by then Rowan EDC executive director Randy Harrell in 2003. She’s served in various roles for the organization, but most recently as director of operations.

No matter where she was working, Dickert’s primary goal remained the same — she always wanted to find the penny.

“I like budgeting and I like finding that one penny that is off,” Dickert said. “Where is that penny? I’m going to find it. It’s just a challenge.”

Throughout her career, Dickert has been dogged in her search for accounting errors, regardless of how large or small they may have been. 

Shelton credits her with ensuring that the organization has remained in good financial standing. In addition to missing her accounting skills, Shelton said the organization will lose a fount of wisdom when Dickert retires.

“She always made sure we were always aware of what we had as far as funds, what would be done with them, where they were located,” Shelton said. “But what she also brought with her, since she’d been there longer than anyone else, she could always answer questions about why something was done this way or where we could find this bit of information. It’s going to be a lot of institutional knowledge that leaves when she leaves.”

Rod Crider, president and CEO of the Rowan EDC, said Dickert has helped the organization’s more recently hired employees, like himself, learn the local dynamics.

“She has been such a big part of all of our success here and has institutional knowledge that others of us don’t have, which has helped to guide and direct us,” Crider said. “She’s been an integral part of what we’re doing.”

Dickert was also an important liaison between the EDC and its rotating board members, which Dickert said was her favorite part of the job.

Last month, the EDC announced that it hired Joanie Michael as administrative services manager. Michael will serve in a different capacity than Dickert. The financial services provided by Dickert will now be outsourced.

Even though Dickert liked to stay behind the scenes, she was front and center when the EDC’s staff went out for meals or to attend a public gathering.

“We used to joke with her, that if we ever went out for lunch or anywhere in public, she always knew multiple people, would always run into multiple people she knew,” Shelton said. “We joked that she should run for elected office in Rowan County. She’d likely get elected.”

Despite Shelton’s vote of confidence, Dickert currently has no plans to launch a second career as a politician. Instead, she said she’ll spend her retirement doing anything she wants. No matter what she does in retirement, Dickert said she’ll “always laugh a lot.”

That doesn’t surprise Shelton.

“There was never a day that I wasn’t happy to see her in the office,” Shelton said. “We’d seen a lot and been through a lot over the years. She always brought a smile to everything.”

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