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Natoli promoted to assistant county manager, will retain human resources director title

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Personnel Board on Monday voted to change the leadership structure of county government.

After a closed meeting, the personnel board, which consists of Chairman Greg Edds, Vice Chair Jim Greene and County Manager Aaron Church as a non-voting member, approved elevating Human Resources Director Kelly Natoli to the position of assistant county manager. 

In addition to retaining her duties as human resources director, Natoli will now oversee the county’s libraries, risk management and purchasing. Along with the promotion comes a raise of $19,402. Her annual pay will now be about $125,000.

The county’s move to reclassify Natoli’s position came at Church’s behest.

“In a large organization, you’re constantly looking for ways to approve and make things more efficient,” Church said. “… Under (Natoli’s) leadership, we became one of the healthiest employers in the country. She’s transformed HR in Rowan County to being one of the healthiest in the state and one of the healthiest in the country.”

Since being named human resources director in 2018, Natoli said she has worked to make the department more productive.

“The good part about it is that over these past three years, we have automated almost all of our processes in human resources, automated applicant tracking, digitized records, automated on-boarding process for new employees,” Natoli said.

As a result, Natoli said, she’s in a good position to take on more responsibilities. She plans on bringing a similar efficiency-first approach to other departments in her new role.

“I really do like technology and my goal is to always utilize technology to its fullest extent, when it makes sense, when it makes things efficient for employees and citizens,” Natoli said. “If I have the opportunity to automate, that’s an exciting thing for me.”

But automating processes, Natoli said, doesn’t mean replacing human functions.

“Automation doesn’t replace employees,” Natoli said. “Automation enhances abilities to do their job. Automation cannot replace the institutional knowledge they have within themselves. Where it makes sense to use automation to enhance services, it works.”

Edds said Natoli has been a “real asset to the county.” 

“She is whipping our HR process and department and the county into shape and we are really grateful for the expertise she brings and the professionalism she brings to her position,” Edds said.

Former Finance Director Leslie Heidrick, who retired in September, served as assistant county manager during her tenure. When Heidrick retired, the county reclassified the finance director position to no longer include the assistant county manager title. Since then, Randy Cress has been the county’s only assistant county manager, until Natoli’s promotion on Monday. Along with information technology, Cress oversees planning and development and building inspections.

Along with naming Natoli an assistant county manager, the personnel board approved a promotion for Human Resources Analyst Debbie Holshouser, who will now serve as assistant director of risk management in addition to her current role as assistant director of benefits. Holshouser will receive a $10,259 raise in pay. She will earn about $80,000 annually.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners met after the personnel board. Action from its agenda included:

• After a closed session, Commissioners approved the early termination of the county’s contract with Mediko, the company that formerly supplied healthcare services to the Rowan County Detention Center. The county terminated the contract about a month shy of its expiration date. Commissioners recently approved a contract with Wellpath to provide inmate healthcare services at the detention center for an estimated first year cost of $1.03 million. The county will receive a $50,000 credit from Mediko due to staffing shortages at the detention center.

• Finance Director Jim Howden supplied commissioners with a routine update on the county’s current finances. The county’s annual cumulative expenditures through April were $122.3 million, which is about $300,000 less than the same time the year before. The county’s cumulative revenue through April was $139 million, which was about $11 million more than the year prior. Through March, the county’s cumulative property tax was $86.3 million, which was about $2 million more than the year before. The county’s cumulative sales tax through January was about $18 million, which was a $2 million increase from 2020. The county’s monthly sales tax for January was about $2.5 million, which was about $500,000 more than the year prior.

• Commissioners approved a request from Rowan County Power LLC to amend a conditional use for the company to add a 3,200-square foot building for equipment storage at its power facility located at 5755 NC 801. Rowan County Power has managed an electrical power generation facility on the property since 1999.

• Commissioners approved a request from Planning Director Ed Muire related to a project to student land use and transportation in the Long Ferry Road area.

• Commissioners approved a request from Natoli to remove the current freeze on hiring that was implemented in May of last year.

• Commissioners approved a contract with former Rowan County soil erosion program administrator Greg Greene to mentor Environmental Compliance Specialist Josh Canup on an as-needed basis for no more than 25 hours per month for the remainder of fiscal year 2020-21 and through fiscal year 2021-22.

• Commissioners approved a proclamation designating May 16-22 as National Emergency Medical Services week and thanked EMS Chief Allen Cress for his service and the service of his staff.

• Commissioners approved a proclamation designating May as motorcycle safety and awareness month.

• Commissioners approved a request for a fireworks display to be held for the Nazareth Children’s Home on July 3 at the Salisbury Elks Lodge on Long Ferry Road.

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