Four-County names new director

Abbi Overfelt Editor

January 15, 2014

LAURINBURG — Four-County Community Services has hired as its executive director a woman with Robeson County ties who has more than 20 years of experience in administration.

Ericka Jones Whitaker, a doctoral candidate at Fayetteville State University who most recently worked as an instructor at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and has also served as the director of the Robeson Community College Foundation, will begin her post Monday.

She will serve as a permanent replacement for former executive director Richard Greene, who was fired last March by the organization’s board of directors following a state audit reflecting the agency’s mismanagement of $75,000 in 2012. Four-County, based in Laurinburg, receives some $21 million annually through state and federal grants to operate 16 Head Start programs and administer housing assistance programs in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Hoke, Pender, Robeson and Scotland counties.

Jason King, chairman of the Four-County Board of Directors, announced early this month that the board had chosen a director out of a pool of 60 applicants, eight of whom were interviewed, but Whitaker’s name was not released until Wednesday.

King said her appointment was based on her “solid leadership and track record of excellence everywhere she was worked and served.”

Whitaker has served since 2010 as the Executive in Residence and Management Lecturer in the School of Business at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where she taught courses in Marketing, Management and International Business. Prior to that post, she was the Foundation Director at Robeson Community College for four years, during which time she was also an adjunct lecturer at UNCP.

Whitaker moved to the area after spending about 14 years in Washington, D.C., where she held management positions with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the National Council on Patient Information and Education before serving for two years as the administrative director of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

She has served on the Pembroke and Lumberton chambers of commerce; the Sister’s Network Inc. of Southeastern NC; the state ABC Board; and the board of directors for the Exploration Station in Lumberton.

“My leadership vision falls in line with that of Four County, which is to provide equal access to education, jobs, housing, healthcare and nutrition through various funding sources,” Whitaker said in a statement.

Saying that the staff must be “well-trained” and “committed,” Whitaker said her priority will be to ensure that policies are being followed.

“… My short-term goals involve evaluating the internal infrastructure of the organization and ensuring it is in alignment with that of the purpose and policies of the organization while being fiscally responsible,” Whitaker’s statement continued.

Whitaker holds a master’s of science degree in Administration from Trinity University in Washington, D.C. and a bachelor’s of Arts in Business Communications from the University of Maryland.

Her annual salary will be $100,000.

Whitaker is expected to be permanent in the position, which has seen repeated turnover since Greene’s dismissal. Then board-chairman Jimmy Cummings named Kim Clark — who had served as deputy director under Greene — permanent executive director in June, but the federal Department of Health and Human Services said her appointment had not been approved and that her name had never been submitted as a candidate. Clark will serve under Whitaker as deputy director.

Cummings has since resigned from the agency’s board of directors. King, Robeson County’s assistant county manager, came on to the Four-County board in April.