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Matthew Delk to become county administrator for Pickens; has served in both Carolinas

Published: August 11, 2014

Traditions of Service Grows

Matthew Delk to become county administrator for Pickens; has served in both Carolinas

 

By Lillia Callum-Penso – Greenville News

 

It took Matthew Delk two tries, but eventually he got the job.

 

The father of two will step into the role of county administrator of Pickens County on Aug. 25, 15 years after Delk first applied for the job in 1999.

 

"I don't think I even interviewed at the time," Delk said, speaking by phone from Union, N.C., where he is finishing up as assistant county manager. "I think I was probably down the list. But I was attracted to this area."

 

Delk brings 20 years of experience as administrator and assistant administrator in both Carolinas, but he always had his heart set on the Upstate area.

 

Delk grew up in the Lowcountry, the son of a Baptist preacher and a social worker. His family didn't have a lot monetarily, but it was rich in values, he said. He learned early on the importance of service to the community, a lesson that shaped his future involvement in local government

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And the more Delk immersed himself in local government, the more he loved it.

"You're not dealing with just one or two programs, you're dealing with many departments and many programs," Delk said. "You may be explaining a fairly complicated utility bill or tax matter one minute and 10 minutes later you're trying to help someone get their garbage picked up."

 

With city and county government, he said, people who like dealing with people thrive. And Delk likes people.

 

He beat out more than 100 other applicants for the position of county administrator, but County Council members had no doubts they chose the right person for the job.

 

"He has a strong history of responsibility as far as his administrative work, and he is detail-oriented, very very thorough and just a very likable guy," Councilwoman Jennifer Willis said.

 

"We tend to take a team approach in terms of our management style and I would expect that to continue with him, and I expect that will work well with his style, as well."

 

Delk plans to bring that collaborative mindset to his job in Pickens County. He is careful not to give definitive plans of action just yet: "I don't want to come in with any preconceived notions."

 

But he is also adamant about smart governance. In Delk's assessment, that means being conservative with spending and taxes, and pushing for commercial and industrial growth.

 

Evidence of his approach can be found in his past experiences in county government.

Delk worked as the deputy county administrator in Allendale County before becoming county administrator of Bamberg County in 1996. Both experiences taught him a great deal about creative problem-solving in the face of limited resources.

 

Later, Delk took a job as county manager in Halifax County in North Carolina. The county was then facing high unemployment. Under Delk's leadership, the county built an industrial park off Interstate 95 that successfully attracted new businesses and created jobs.

 

"He has a wealth of experience both in large and small counties," Willis said. "So he's been in situations with very tight fiscal constraints. But he's also been in counties that are larger than ours which gives him the ability to bring in some ideas that we haven't seen or might not have considered."

 

In some ways, Delk said he was born into a life of public service. His parents influenced his interest in helping people, and his participation in the Boy Scouts solidified his commitment to community.

 

Delk followed that interest to college, eventually going to graduate school for public administration at the University of South Carolina.

 

"You can print that real small," Delk laughed. "I love Clemson."

 

While pursuing his master's, Delk took a slight detour joining the National Guard.

"I had no idea what I was going to do after school," Delk said. "So I figured I could learn something by joining the National Guard and better organize myself."

 

It worked, and after graduating from grad school, Delk went to officer training school. He earned his commission in 1997 and he led an engineer explosive hazard team in Baghdad.

 

More recently, Delk has been working as assistant county manager in Union County, a position he took in 2007. The time spent in Union, which sits just east of Charlotte, has given Delk a deeper understanding of managing growth and mediating different interests.

 

Since 2007, Union's population has increased by about 24,000 people, which put stress on local resources, such as water, Delk said.

 

The county worked to come up with a solution. Essentially, the county changed the approval process for water and sewer permits to curb residential construction, while boosting industrial construction and commercial growth, Delk said.

 

"It's not the greatest idea to rely solely on residential growth for your tax base," Delk said. "It's best to have industrial development and to encourage commercial development as well so that people not only have job opportunities but you can encourage private enterprise to grow."

 

Delk said he'd take the same conservative stance toward taxes and spending as administrator in Pickens County. He said he didn't believe "pushing large programs and large tax increases is something county government should be striving for," but instead felt county governments should focus on providing a baseline of services.

 

Delk said he is waiting until he gets into office later this month to reveal specific plans or actions he would take.

 

"I believe that county government should provide stability instead of rapid change and development," Delk said. "And I think Pickens County has reflected that in the past."

But he has read up on a few Pickens-related items, such as the Doodle Trail, an 8.5-mile rails-to-trail project linking Easley with Pickens. He said it was a boon to the area. Though he did not make any specific commitments.

 

"Of course I'd love to see the county support the municipalities in any way it can," he said. "But I don't know at this point whether support would be financial or promotional or what the support would be. A lot would probably be determined by the resources that would be made available and goals of the County Council."