Macon County is losing an incredible amount of experience this year with the impending retirements of two employees.
Between them, Wilma Anderson — assistant to the county manager/human-resources director and Evelyn Southard — finance director — have more than 60 years in local government.
“You don’t replace that,” Brian McClellan, chairman of the Macon County Board of Commissioners, said flatly.
Still, county government must grind on, and Manager Jack Horton is busy trying to find Anderson’s replacement before she departs later this month.
Actually, it will take two people to do what Anderson did. Horton plans to split her duties by hiring an HR director and a deputy clerk to the board. Southard doesn’t plan to retire until October.
“Wilma makes it look easy, but it isn’t easy,” Horton said. “She has had a very complex job.”
Anderson, after serving almost 36 years, is ready for a change.
“When I think about leaving here, the thing I think about the most is what these people mean to me,” Anderson said. “I love the people part of it.”
Anderson served through countless commission boards and multiple county managers. McClellan said it truly takes a special individual to have the ability to work with such a varied cast of characters.
“She’s one in a million,” he said, then quoted Charles de Gaulle: “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”
“None of us are indispensable,” McClellan said, “but Wilma is about as close as it gets. The same goes for Evelyn.”
Southard spent about 35 years in state and local government. Some of that time was at Western Carolina University, then at Southwestern Community College, and as finance director in Edgecombe County, where she retired in 1998 before returning to the Macon County finance office.
“I love what I do,” Southard said, adding that if she gets bored with her second retirement, she might try part-time or volunteer work this go-around.
“You have to be strong — you have to be able to say ‘no,’ and you have to care about the product of your work,” the veteran government worker said of what makes for a good finance director.
Southard’s office has repeatedly been recognized, both through audits and by the state, for the quality of its work.
A retirement party for longtime county employee Wilma Anderson will be held March 29 from 2-4 p.m. in the Southwestern Community Center annex behind the administration building. Enter the building through the third floor.