Stewart named interim county administratorBy Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Darlington County Council held a special called meeting Tuesday, August 9 at 5 p.m. and named former Emergency Services director Charles Stewart as interim county administrator, following the surprise departure of former admin Terence Arrington the previous day.
After an executive session, council voted unanimously to hire Stewart as interim administrator for the period of August 10, 2016 through July 1 of 2017.
Stewart has a masters degree in biomedical science from USC School of Medicine, and has worked in the EMS field since the age of sixteen. He started working with Darlington County EMS part time in 2002. He also spent eleven years working with the South Carolina EMS Pee Dee Regional Office, and served four years as Darlington County’s Emergency Services director. Stewart resigned that position last year to deal with family medical issues, and also to operate his family’s sixteen-house turkey farm.
The term of his contract will require Stewart to shepherd the county through preparation and passage of the 2017/18 fiscal year budget, and he says that his previous duties and affinity for details should help during that process.
“All of my work experience involves administration and budget, starting when I was 22 with the EMS service in Lee County, which was a professional service that answered to a board,” Stewart says, adding that his experiences at the state and county level also required acute financial accountability.
“I did all my own budgets for departments while I was here (at Darlington County) and double checked everything anybody else did. I’m a budget-specific individual,” said Stewart. “My whole purpose will be to keep the county operation going for the benefit of the citizens in the most fiscal, financial, and ethical means possible.”
Council chair Bobby Hudson gave Stewart a vote of confidence after the meeting, expressing certainty that Stewart will hold down the fort until the application and hiring process for a permanent administrator is completed next year.
“(Stewart) did a fine job when he worked here with EMS. He helped with the budget…and he’s a good people-person,” said Hudson. “Hopefully it’ll work out for us until we can get somebody else in there.”
Though council agreed on Stewart’s selection as interim, they were not of one mind regarding issues surrounding Arrington’s departure. During one break from executive session, council reconvened and voted on whether to ratify action taken by County Attorney Jim Cox on August 8. That action reportedly involved Cox approving a payout of the remainder of Arrington’s contract – approximately $50,000 for the final six months – even if he left the position immediately.
Council member Bobby Kilgo moved to ratify Cox’s action, received a second from Le Flowers, and got “aye” votes from council members Wilhelmina Johnson, Mozella “Pennie” Nicholson, and David Coker. Hudson and vice chair Robbin Brock voted against the motion.
Arrington’s sudden departure happened after council convened a special meeting the morning of August 8 and postponed a vote to renew Arrington’s employment contract. Following a discussion in closed executive session, council adjourned the meeting without taking any public action on the matter. By afternoon, reports began to surface that Arrington had decided to resign after council opted not to renew his contract.
In an email sent the afternoon of August 9, Arrington wrote the following:
“Yesterday afternoon several articles pertaining to my employment status with Darlington County were released to the public. I’m disappointed County Council decided not to renew my employment contract or provide an official performance evaluation to justify their decision. After the executive session meeting on Monday adjourned, I had time to consult with my Attorney and consider what is best for the community, organization and myself. I advised Chairman Hudson that if the offer (to receive the remaining six months of salary) was still on the table, I would meet with the County Attorney to work out the details. After my meeting with the County Attorney, I agreed to accept County Council’s proposal. It has been a pleasure serving the residents of Darlington County!”
Arrington, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, served as Darlington County administrator since February of 2015. He was initially hired with a two year contract paying $100,000 the first year and $105,000 the second year. He previously served as assistant city administrator in Salisbury, Maryland, a job he held for approximately one year before leaving to come to Darlington County.
Darlington County Council will issue a public statement on the transition on Monday, August 15 at their regular meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Courthouse Annex located at 1625 Harry Byrd Hwy in Darlington.