After more than a decade of leadership and significant strides to better this community, City of Clinton manager John Connet is departing for the managerial post in Hendersonville.
The city regretfully announced Connet’s resignation in a statement Wednesday. Connet told city staff and department heads earlier this week. He will serve his last day May 24, assuming the role of city manager for the City of Hendersonville on May 28.
“This is a bittersweet time for our family. The citizens of Clinton have been great to us,” said Connet. “I have spent more than half my life in Clinton and will always consider it my hometown.”
Connet has served as city manager since July 1, 2002. During his tenure as manager, the city has undertaken numerous projects that have benefited its residents and helped prepare Clinton for the future, city officials said.
“I certainly regret to see John leave our city, but understand that this is a positive career move for him and his family,” said Clinton Mayor Lew Starling. “The City Council and I wish him the best.”
Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk said Connet was selected from a field of 86 individuals who applied for the position, citing skills and traits that separated him from others. She said everyone is looking forward to having Connet in Hendersonville, a city with a population of 13,000 situated along Interstate 26 in Henderson County, approximately 18 miles south of Asheville.
While raised in Clinton, Connet is no stranger to the western part of the state, where wife Lori’s family is also located.
He earned his undergraduate degree in political science and geography from Western Carolina University in August 1992, serving as president of the university’s Student Government Association. He earned his master’s degree in public administration from Appalachian State University in December 1997. Staying in the western part of North Carolina, Connet worked for the City of Hickory, first as planner from 1992 to 1997 and then as risk manager from 1997 to 1999.
A stint as town manager of Winterville from 1999 to 2002 preceded his homecoming to Clinton, where he grew up.
“With his background at Western Carolina and Appalachian State, John knows the mountains,” Volk said. “Clinton, although smaller than Hendersonville, has all the departments we have and has recently done downtown rejuvenation and a park master plan, so John understands our challenges.”
As he departs for Hendersonville, Connet is taking with him a vast amount of experience and a laundry list of accomplishments in his 11 years at the managerial helm in Clinton.
During his time as manager, the city invested more than $3 million in downtown revitalization projects, including construction of the Clinton City Market and All-America City Park, restoration of the Kaleel’s building and installation of the area’s first public art piece, “Milling Around.”
Additionally, large investments were made in other areas to prepare for economic growth. Water and sewer lines were upgraded for improved service and fire protection, Railroad Street was widened and the Dollar Branch Sewer Outfall was reconstructed from Smithfield Packing to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Community Development Block Grant funding in the amount of $2 million was also received to revitalize the neighborhoods around Pugh Road, Russell Street and Eliza Lane.
Not only were advancements made in infrastructure, but the quality of budget preparation and public communication were also upgraded.
Under Connet, the establishment of the Connect-CTY phone system and the Clinton Connection Citizen Newsletter improved community communication, while similar strides were made toward financial and budgetary accountability with new policies and practices resulting in the city’s first long-term Capital Improvement Plan and receipt of the Government Finance Officers Association’s Distinguished Budget Presentation award for 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Clinton was named an All-America City in 2007 and earned finalist recognition in 2004, 2005 and 2009.
In addition to his formal education, Connet studied at the School of Government at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, attending the Municipal Administration Program in 2000 and the Public Executive Leadership Academy in 2008.
He is a member of the International City and County Management Association, with which he has earned and maintained credentialed manager status. He also belongs to the N.C. City and County Management Association and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina League of Municipalities. He has been recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International, is certified as a Merit Badge Instructor for Boy Scouts of America and earned the Eagle Scout designation through Troop 27 of Clinton.
Connet, wife Lori and their two daughters, ages 8 and 10, attend Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church in Clinton, where Connet has served as an elder. Local church, civic and community involvements have been immense for Connet, who said he would sorely miss the city staff and members of the Clinton community.
“We’ve enjoyed our time in Clinton,” Connet said. “I look forward to helping the city find its next manager to keep these things going.”
The City of Clinton will provide details regarding the hiring process for the next city manager within the next several weeks, likely at the Council’s May 7 meeting. Nearly five hours away, Volk said a reception to introduce the Connets to the Hendersonville community was in the works.
Connet said he is leaving with mixed emotions.
“Hendersonville provides a great career opportunity for me and allows my wife to move closer to her parents. This is a great location to be closer to Lori’s family after living more than four hours away for the past 14 years,” said Connet, before adding, “Clinton will always have a special place in our hearts.”
Chris Berendt can be reaching at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.