The McCrory administration has named a former Ashe County manager and former East Carolina University professor to run a new division charged with overseeing the work previously done by the states Rural Economic Development Center.
Patricia Mitchell will be the states first assistant secretary for rural economic development at the Department of Commerce, earning $105,000 a year. Her appointment comes three and a half weeks after she was forced to resign as Ashe County manager.
Mitchell is an adjunct faculty member at Appalachian State University, Nova Southeastern University and N.C. State University. She is also an instructor at the N.C. Rural Center Rural Economic Development Institute and the UNC School of Government.
Dr. Mitchell is well-equipped for this, having served both as a county manager and an economic developer in Ashe County a rural part of North Carolina, Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said on a conference call with reporters Friday. And also from an education standpoint, she has been teaching in the area of public policy and grant making and brings a lot of knowledge and history to this role.
Mitchell received a doctorate and masters degree in public administration from the University of Georgia. She has a bachelors degree in English and language arts from Berry College in Georgia.
Mitchells division will take over three major programs that had been overseen by the Rural Center. The state cut off funding and halted the Rural Centers ability to spend state funds after a critical audit this summer.
The programs that will now be run through the Rural Economic Development Division provide assistance for building reuse and restoration, water and sewer infrastructure and economic innovation in rural communities. The Division of Community Assistance, NC Broadband, Main Street and the Appalachian Regional Commission are also being consolidated into the new rural division.
Forced out in Ashe
Mitchell said on Fridays conference call that she doesnt know why three of Ashe Countys five commissioners asked her to resign.
Ive not been given a reason for that, she said.
Before being named county manager in January 2012, Mitchell served as Ashes economic development director for seven years.
Mitchell said one of her first priorities in her new role will be improving communication with rural communities so that they know what resources are available to them and how they can apply. She said the division also needs to play a role in rebuilding the states manufacturing base.
One aspect of that will be taking a look at the empty, unused buildings and determining whether they are a candidate for building restoration or reuse for some kind of business manufacturing.
Decker said the Rural Economic Development Division hopes to resume making grants by late October.
The Rural Center will continue to exist, but in a much diminished capacity. It will focus on leadership development and managing some existing loan programs, Decker said.
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