Harrold's performance highlighted value of position

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Josh Harrold, Black Mountain's planning and development director, is leaving to take a similar job in Forsyth County.

Harrold will become planning and development director in Lewisville, a town with more than 12,000 people. The change will allow him to be closer to family.

After serving five years as North Wilkesboro's director of planning and development, Harrold in March 2014 filled a position in Black Mountain that had been empty for three years, last held by Elizabeth Teague.

“With the position having been vacant for so long, the department did a good job of trying to keep up with the demands of permitting and those type of things,” Harrold, a native of Wilkes County with a master’s degree in geography from Appalachian State University, said. “As far as planning goes, there was no planner here, so things like grant writing and long- and short-term planning weren’t happening.”

Securing funding for the Upper Swannanoa River Watershed Restoration Plan was one of the first tasks he took on.

“Getting that plan together put us into position to find more funding options for projects,” he said. “We recently had the Tomahawk Branch restoration, and we have various stormwater projects taking place here in the next few months.”

Behind the scenes Harrold identified “40 or 50” land use code amendments, mostly aimed at clearing up inconsistent language.

In spring 2016, Harrold took on a key role in having The Oaks, a town-owned trail, designated as part of the Fonta Flora State Trail, which will ultimately connect Morganton to Asheville by a series of greenways.

Harrold’s legacy as the director of planning and development is a meaningful one, according to town manager Matt Settlemyer.

“His commitment to our vision of being a town that tries to balance growth that’s clearly on the rise with some environmental and land use concerns drew us to him initially,” Settlemyer said. “Of course he distinguished himself over time with projects as he moved forward.”

The job Harrold did in three-plus years in Black Mountain helped illuminate how vital the role of planning and development director is in a growing town, according to Settlemyer.

“We are going to hire (a new) one immediately,” he said. “We now recognize that Black Mountain grows at a pace that requires somebody to have a hands-on, day-to-day approach with a vision that ties into the board’s vision for the town, and carries that forward.”

Settlemyer said he’d like to have the position filled by the end of the summer.

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