McDowell DSS director announces resignation

Phillip Hardin announced Monday he is resigning as director of McDowell County Department of Social Services. (File photo)

On Monday, Phillip Hardin announced he would resign as director of the McDowell County Department of Social Services, effective Friday, Aug. 30.

Hardin, who has been the director of DSS since March 2006, said he was leaving to accept a position with the Buncombe County Department of Health & Human Services. He will start working there Sept. 3.

“It was an opportunity that came to me that I couldn’t pass up,” said Hardin, who lives in Asheville. “I will be much closer to home. It will be an opportunity for me to work for a real progressive organization.”

He said his decision to resign and take a new job in Buncombe had nothing to do with last month’s vote by the McDowell County Commissioners to put the local DSS under their authority.

“This is an opportunity that opens up in my backdoor,” he said. “This is a stepping stone for me that offers me some growth. I am sad to leave. It was a real hard decision, one I didn’t take lightly.”

“As a board, we would like to thank Phillip for his dedicated service in helping to meet the needs of the people of McDowell County,” said Commission Chairman David Walker. “Phillip and his staff have worked tirelessly to make our county DSS what it is today. Our Board extends our best wishes to Phillip as he prepares to transition to the next step in his career. We know that he will continue to put the needs of his clients first.”

Since he became DSS director, McDowell and other surrounding communities have been hit very hard by the economic recession and lost jobs. This caused the caseloads for social services workers to grow tremendously, he added.

“It’s a tough job, he said of being DSS director. “It forces you to really grow personally. I really do appreciate the support of my board.”

However, the county Board of Social Services could cease to exist or become just an advisory body for the County Commission.

At their July meeting, the commissioners voted 3-1 to proceed with having DSS come under their control. Walker said last month the commissioners took this action after the N.C. General Assembly gave counties more flexibility in overseeing their local Departments of Social Services.

“There have been close to 20 counties make the move to the county administration operating and overseeing the Departments of Social Services in their respective counties,” he said on Tuesday, July 9. “The feeling of the board is that this would be a positive move with no disruption of services to the public who may have need of the different kind of assistance which is currently offered by DSS.”

Walker said at the time he would like to see the DSS board continue as an advisory board to the commissioners.

At Monday’s regular meeting for August, the commissioners heard an overview from County Manager Chuck Abernathy about the process of transitioning the authority of the DSS board to the county and the County Commission. The commissioners were given a sample resolution from Watauga County which can be modified for McDowell. Abernathy also informed the commissioners about Hardin’s resignation.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing at 5:45 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9. The purpose of the hearing is to consider conferring upon the Board of Commissioners all powers responsibilities and duties of the McDowell County Board of Social Services.

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