York County Manager Jim Baker gave his final State of the County address Tuesday morning, emphasizing collaboration as key to future success and cautioning elected officials that deciding how best to invest taxpayers' money takes “courage.”
Baker, who announced last week that he will resign in January to take a similar job in Chesapeake, Va., spoke at the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the County Breakfast at the City Club on Main Street.
Baker listed the county’s greatest achievements this year, including announcing nearly 1,800 new jobs and advances made in the county’s sales-tax road building program, Pennies for Progress.
Hired in 2007, Baker said one of his first tasks as county manager was to tell the council about a shortfall in the Pennies program and call for a change in the program’s management.
Now the program has promised more than $600 million in road construction, he said.
Baker also listed several building projects that county leaders will be faced with. Some include upgrades to county buildings, while others involve recreation projects around the county.
Deciding how to invest taxpayers’ money meaningful, and in ways that will plan for the future, “can be real daunting,” he said. “It takes a lot of courage to make those types of decisions.”
On the county’s fiscal health, Baker noted the county’s conservative approach to government, and said “There’s not a lot of fat to cut anymore.”
Instead, opportunities for growth are in collaboration and “joint efforts, but they’re going to be a challenge to undertake” for “elected officials,” he said, turning occasionally toward the York County Councilmen who were seated nearby.
Collaboration can be difficult because it “requires you to give up some of your autonomy and individual control. In tough times it's hard enough to trust your own decision making,” he said.
Members of the York County Council took turns talking about their plans for the county, some taking the opportunity to comment on Baker.
Chad Williams said “When we look for somebody else, we don't want somebody that nobody else wants.”
“Hopefully it's just as appealing to stay here as it is to leave,” he added.
Asked about the timeline for finding a new county manager, Council Chairman Britt Blackwell said the council hasn’t come together to discuss it yet, but it won’t be something they rush.
“We want to make sure we get somebody on the level of Jim,” he said.
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Jamie Self 803-329-4062