The City of Clinton’s is continuing its grand leadership transition of 2017, with Public Works director now added to the list upon the announcement that longtime city employee Jeff Vreugdenhil is retiring.
Vreugdenhil informed city officials on Wednesday that he would be retiring effective in three months, on July 27. He has served as the City of Clinton’s Public Works and Utilities director since the end of 2010, assuming the role after serving as the Clinton-Sampson Planning director for years before that.
He started with the city in an entry-level position nearly three decades ago, in October 1988. Prior to his nearly seven years at the Public Works post, Vreugdenhil worked for more than two decades as a city planner, as Clinton Planning director and, when the county and city combined services, as the head of the Clinton-Sampson Planning Department. Mary Rose assumed that head planning role in spring 2011 in the wake of Vreugdenhil’s move to Public Works.
“The city has been so very gracious to me and given me so many opportunities here,” Vreugdenhil reflected on Wednesday. “I have nothing but positive things to say about our town, its leadership and the direction it has taken. I have had a lot of good people working with me, a lot of strong co-workers.”
Vreugdenhil worked at internships for Kinston and Rocky Mount before going back to work for Kinston in its planning department after graduating from East Carolina University. Following the stint at Kinston, he came to Clinton. He was 25 at the time.
The city has changed remarkably over the years on the strength of a three-phase downtown revitalization project spanning more than a decade, and various projects in and around the downtown — the Clinton City Market, the “Milling Around” art piece, a renovated Public Works headquarters, a transformed Ace Plaza parking lot are just some of many — that have reshaped the city and its landscape. Though modest, Vreugdenhil was at the heart of those projects as Planning director then as Public Works director.
“The biggest first step was that very first downtown revitalization project,” Vreugdenhil reflected Wednesday, “and I’ve always been really attached to the improvements I can see. I think that first project was hard to get going, and as soon as they got going, it was so popular they wanted to do a couple more.”
He also noted the parking lot project, and said he fully anticipated similar overhauls are on the horizon.
“It did change our town a lot, and our leadership has been very important in that — our Council, everyone has been on board,” the Public Works director said.
With his announcement, Vreugdenhil will be the latest in a string of retirements of longtime employee in the City of Clinton’s Public Works Department. Tony Steffen, Randy Parker and Bennett Honeycutt each retired last year following three decades of service.
“There are a lot of tenured guys here. We’ve worked really hard to have solid succession planning and those people are certainly always missed. You can’t replace that much experience, but we’ll always move forward,” Vreugdenhil attested.
It also adds to the growing list of vacancies in key city department and administrative roles, with the next Clinton Police Department chief still not announced and the search for the next city manager continuing. Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley is set to retire on April 30 and interim City Manager Robert Hyatt has taken the place of former City Manager Shawn Purvis, who departed last week after nine years with the city for the assistant town manager position in Apex. Hyatt is leading the city in a temporary capacity as the City Council seeks to fill the role on a permanent basis.
Vreugdenhil said the city will continue to progress, and he will be working to make the transition as seamless as possible.
“They’ll move forward after me, they’ll move forward after Shawn … it’s a strong organization, they won’t falter,” he stated. In the next few months, there are a number of projects Vreugdenhil will be coordinating, including some hurricane wrap-up, hospital water service and various surveys, in order to “help the town move forward after my departure.”
“That’s key,” he asserted. “It’s inherently important to me to see them succeed, and they will, but I want to do my part to make sure they can.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.