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Retired Leader Reflects On Service

By Cece Nunn, posted Dec 6, 2019
Ann Hardy, who received a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, retired recently after serving for six years as manager of Brunswick County. (Photo by Michael Cline Spencer)
Ann Hardy’s grandmother farmed land in North Wilkesboro, a small town in western North Carolina.
 
“She always, even during the Depression, made sure that her neighbors were well fed and had food,” Hardy said.
 
The story serves as an example of the people in Hardy’s family who were involved in their communities and engaged in public service. For her part, Hardy recently retired as manager of Brunswick County, receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in October. She was succeeded by former Pender County manager Randell Woodruff.
 
Meeting at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where she achieved a master’s degree, Hardy recently shared some thoughts on her career path.
 

GWBJ: What do you consider your greatest challenges while you were county manager for six years?

 
HARDY: “The GenX discovery in the water was an enormous challenge because there was, and still is, very little information, guidance and support. I am thankful that the county moved forward with engaging qualified professionals to determine the most effective long-term solution and is in the process of delivering that solution as quickly as possible. I am hopeful that those responsible for contaminating our water supply will be held accountable.
 
I encourage the northern area of the county to reconsider the construction of an aquifer water treatment plant and to continue to purchase water from the county. I am confident that society is better off when governments work together and do what is best for the whole rather than act for a small sector. There are many areas of the county that need public water due to failing wells and poor water quality. The provision of sanitary water and sewer systems saves lives and stimulates the economy These major capital financial decisions will impact the county’s ability to extend water and sewer service to underserved areas where developers are not likely to reach for many years, and the payback period to ratepayers is very long …
 
I think it speaks to the credibility of the county and support the county has provided to others that the city of Northwest and town of Navassa have voted to merge with the county utility system. I am hopeful that the city of Southport will become a full participant in the West Sewer Plant.”
 

GWBJ: What do you consider your greatest accomplishments?

 
HARDY: “There are no accomplishments possible in a large organization or government without the work and dedication of many talented individuals and other organizations. I’m proud that I was a small part of the expansions of the water and sewer systems, senior centers and programs, park facilities, school capital projects and improved bond credit ratings. I think the county did an exceptional job in preparing, managing and recovering from Hurricane Florence. I am proud that the board of commissioners saw through the turbulence of the GenX discovery and the need for sewer expansion in the northern area of the county and steadily moved forward with the expansion of the North East Sewer Treatment Plant, the Low Pressure Reverse Osmosis Water System and Plant Expansion and the Parallel Raw Waterline. I am most proud that the county acted with transparency and integrity and made a sincere effort to keep all stakeholders and the public informed …”
 

GWBJ: What drew you to public service as you were considering what kind of career you wanted?

 
HARDY: “I was very fortunate to have joined Brunswick County Schools in 1996 as 1/5th of the newly hired Superintendent Marion Wise’s leadership team along with now deceased Mary McDuffie, Clarence Willie and John Michaux. Under Mr. Wise’s leadership and encouragement, I believe Brunswick County Schools was transformed.”
 

GWBJ: You got your master’s in public administration at UNCW. What does UNCW mean to you?

 
HARDY: “Well, my daughter is also a graduate of UNCW. She graduated in ‘08 and then went on to NC state … She is kind of following in my footsteps as a CPA and started here with a degree in accountancy. … [Hardy’s MPA work] was the inspiration for public service and being part of something bigger and using those technical skills to work more, to challenge myself, to challenge the elected officials that I work for and to challenge the group that I work with to provide good quality public service to the community.”
 

GWBJ: What did you think about receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award?

 
HARDY: “It was very touching that the members of the board of commissioners were genuinely excited about the award and worked so hard to surprise me. I felt their appreciation during the presentation and that will always mean a lot to me. It humbled me to learn that several local and state officials supported me in the application process and that Reps. Iler and Butler personally made the presentation. …
 
I felt honored to receive an award that both my late aunt (Mildred Blackburn) and 95-year-old uncle (Sherley “John” Blackburn) received for their many years of public service. I was privileged to grow up in a family rooted in farm life, hard work and community service, for which I am very grateful.”
 

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