The city of Laurinburg has hired Charles Nichols, a native son, to fill its city manager position.
The Laurinburg City Council voted unanimously to hire Nichols, the current county finance officer, following an extended closed session during Tuesday night’s agenda planning session.
Nichols replaces Ed Burchins as the permanent city manager. Burchins resigned in December for personal reasons and his duties have been executed by longtime city employee Harold Haywood since that time.
At 30, Nichols will become one of the youngest city managers in the state when he formally takes office on July 1. He will be paid an annual salary of $95,000, excluding travel.
His youth as well as his ties to the area were both appealing to the city council, according to Laurinburg Mayor Tommy Parker.
“He’s bright. He’s personable. And he has a vested interest in Laurinburg. He wants to live here. His wife grew up here. Those are all pluses for us,” Parker said.
Nichols was promoted to county finance officer in 2011 after serving for three years as deputy finance officer.
“(Nichols) is inexperienced, but not totally. He understands government and will be a quick study in my opinion,” Parker added.
Parker said that he views the hire as evidence of the city’s willingness to move in a new direction.
“It shows a commitment to renew the city’s thinking. And he doesn’t have any bad habits that we have to change. He’ll bring vigor and creativity and it will obviously be a culture change,” Parker said. “Everything we said we wanted throughout this process is a positive with him.”
A 2005 graduate of N.C State in accounting, Nichols received a master’s degree in business administration from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Nichols graduated from Scotland High School in 2001. Nichols’ wife, Melanie, is also a Scotland County native.
Nichols said that he was grateful for the opportunity and the faith placed in him by the city council. He also noted that because of his desire to advance his career while remaining in the county that the city manager’s role was a “perfect fit.”
“I’m honored and humbled to be offered the position. I also want to thank the county commissioners and the county staff for giving me the opportunity there, also.”
According to Nichols, the city offers some challenges that the county did not.
“Well definitely the electricity that the city offers and the water and sewer situation – I’ll have to get accustomed to them. And the planning and zoning is also more in-depth than the county’s.
“Of course, at the county I have to deal with the health department and (the department of social services). So there are differences.”
During his time as finance officer, the county raised its fund balance levels to regain its compliant status with the Local Government Commission.
Nichols said that he was proud of that and other accomplishments achieved with Scotland County.
“I think we have come a long way with the county,” Nichols said. “Now I’m ready to help the city reach its full potential.”
Councilman Kenton Spencer said that he was heartened by the hire of Nichols.
“The key thing is not just his youth, but we also have someone who will show a commitment to the city. And it’s also about having a new vision and new blood. It’s about renewal. When you look at our recent hires, there is a common thread here as we move forward,” Spencer said. “Hopefully we will continue with the momentum from this hire into the new year.”
Now that a permanent city manager is hired, the city council is left with finding a permanent police chief. That position has been filled by interim Chief Kimothy Monroe since John Evans departure on Dec. 31.
“We are close there and once that (hire is made) then we will have a clean slate for a while we hope,” Parker said.