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Nova Scotia

Etheridge takes helm as Ahoskie town manager

The Leigh Etheridge era in Ahoskie is officially underway.

The Roanoke-Chowan News Herald reported that Etheridge, who hails from Roanoke Rapids and has spent her entire career in the public sector, was sworn in as Ahoskie City Manager Wednesday afternoon.

“We are delighted to welcome Ms. Etheridge to our city,” said Ahoskie Mayor Weyling White during a brief ceremony held in the Ahoskie Fire Department City Council Chambers. “During the interview we were very, very impressed with her skills and experience. I think we made the right and best decision for Ahoskie to move forward. We’ve had some dark days here, but I’m very excited to see where Leigh will take this town. We trust that it will be successful.”

Mayor White also noted that Etheridge made history by taking the job as she became Ahoskie’s first female city manager. Ahoskie was founded 130 years ago.

When White reached out to other council members for comments, Charles Reynolds said, “I’ve already told her what I need.”

“Potholes… fix the potholes [in the town streets]’ Etheridge replied, acknowledging the councilman.

“I look forward to working with each of you,” Etheridge said as she stood in front of a room full of Town of Ahoskie employees gathered for their inauguration ceremony. “I want to visit you where you work and learn more about what you do for the city.”

Etheridge’s career began with seven years as Commercial Director of the Halifax County Department of Social Services. She was Assistant Treasurer for Northampton County Local Government from 2012-2015 before serving seven years as Treasurer for the City of Roanoke Rapids. Etheridge left that job for a similar position at the City of Poquoson, Virginia.

“I only spent a year in Poquoson because I had a desire to move closer to home [Roanoke Rapids] because my parents are getting older,” Etheridge noted. “I am thrilled to be close to home again. I have great memories of Ahoskie as my cousin and her husband, Susan and Mike Doughtie lived here for many years. All I know is I’m only 50 minutes away [from Roanoke Rapids] as opposed to two hours or more is very comforting to me.”

When she became Ahoskie’s first female city manager, Etheridge responded by saying, “I never saw myself as a trailblazer. Basically, everything I’ve done throughout my career has been for career advancement and trying to balance that with as close a connection to my family as possible. If you have specialized jobs like mine, the advancement is very difficult because there aren’t that many positions open to you to progress to the next level. I’m aware of the fact that I’m the first female city manager for Ahoskie, but that doesn’t define me as a professional. I am here to lead and lead and to help this city move forward.”

Etheridge holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from UNC-Wilmington and a Masters in Business Administration – magna cum laude – from the University of Phoenix. She has also completed numerous courses offered by the UNC School of Government. Another of these courses will be held in Winston-Salem next week, where she will attend a workshop for new managers.

“I’ve taken courses in budgeting, auditing in local government – anything related to my financial role. Now I can apply what I’ve learned to a leadership role,” she said.

“People may not realize that while you’re not the director of the entire organization, as a business leader you gain a lot of experience that goes well beyond finance,” Etheridge continued. “A business officer serves as a liaison to support HR administration, as I did during my time at Halifax County DSS. I also managed IT (information technology) there; I ran the central filing room; I ran janitorial services. I did administrative work.”

Like many small towns across the country, Ahoskie relies heavily on individual and corporate taxpayers to foot the bill for the services it provides. Etheridge is therefore keenly aware of the importance of using subsidy money to alleviate some of that burden.

“Any time we can leverage city dollars with state and federal dollars, that’s a benefit for the city,” she said. “I have the background in this area.”

Etheridge addressed what she saw as the city’s immediate needs.

“I know we have a few vacancies,” she said. “Overall, I’m just ready to jump in and get to work. I want to meet with our employees to see what their needs are and work with Mayor White and the City Council to see what needs to be done that hasn’t been done since April of last year, including mentoring unfinished projects.

“I’m just so happy to be here,” Etheridge added. “I look forward to getting to know our citizens. I have an open door policy and that includes our staff in the city.”

She credits her parents, Cecil and Beverly Etheridge, with their love and support as her career progressed.

“They were my biggest cheerleaders,” Etheridge said. “They even encouraged me when I thought about taking a job two hours away.”

Etheridge has filled the post of Ahoskie Town Manager, which has been vacant for nine months. Kerry McDuffie, the former manager of Ahoskie, was fired without reason on April 22, 2022.

Etheridge was hired at a starting salary of $90,000 annually with a possible 5 percent raise after a six-month probationary period plus a council evaluation of job performance. She must live in Hertford County.

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