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Carrie Wallace
Carrie Wallace

Leadership Profile: Carrie Wallace’s to-do list as county administrator is nearly ‘done’

BUCKHANNON – Most mornings, when Upshur County’s administrator arrives for work at her office on West Main Street, she makes lists of goals she intends to accomplish by the day’s end.

But because of the fast-paced nature of Carrie Wallace’s role and the wide variety of tasks and challenges she encounters, oftentimes, she’ll head out at the end of the day without any of her to-dos checked off.

“Our office is very busy, and there’s never a dull moment,” Wallace told My Buckhannon this week. “You never know what you are going to deal with in a day’s time. I often make lists of my intentions for accomplishments during the day and leave without a single item checked off. That can be frustrating, but it has kept life interesting – it’s always 5 o’clock before you know it.”

However, her time of making daily to-do lists as the county administrator is waning. Wallace, who has worked in county administration since 2014 and as the top administrator since 2015, said she will resign from her position effective May 2, to accept a job as a project coordinator with Region VII Planning & Development Council.

As she prepares to move from the county administrative annex on West Main Street to the Innovation Center where Region VII is headquartered, Wallace knows the upcoming transition will be “bittersweet.” Her family was the driving factor behind her decision. As a working mom of an eight-year-old and a four-year-old whose husband serves in the military, she felt pulled to scale back her responsibilities and workload so she can be present for her kids more often.  

“I’ve come to the realization that this really is true: I’m replaceable at work, but I’m never going to be replaceable at home,” she said. “This transition is bittersweet for me, but I know that it is the right choice for myself and for my family.”

Even if the items on the to-do lists aren’t always done at the end of each day, one thing is for sure: Wallace is leaving Upshur County with a long list of significant accomplishments that she, assistant county administrator Tabatha Perry, and past and current commissions have completed together.

A West Virginia Wesleyan College graduate and a self-proclaimed ‘farm girl’ who grew up in rural Randolph County, Wallace and her husband Craig moved to the North Carolina Outer Banks for a couple of years after college. When the two decided to start a family of their own, they moved back home to be near their families of origin. Wallace, who had some solid management experience under her belt, was hired as the assistant county administrator in 2014.

That didn’t last long, as she quickly transitioned into the role of head county administrator after being appointed by current commissioner Terry Cutright and former commissioners JC Raffety and Troy “Buddy” Brady.

“They took a risk hiring a young 27-year-old woman who had recently moved back to West Virginia,” Wallace recalled. “I’ll always be grateful for the trust they put in me.”

Reflecting on her tenure, Wallace noted some projects consumed more time than others, and that was the case with finding economically sustainable employee health insurance.

“From developing a clear understanding of self-insurance to realizing that self-insurance was no longer feasible for the county to identifying a solution with the Public Employees Insurance Agency, a lot of my time was dedicated towards insurance issues,” Wallace said. “Without this transition [back to PEIA], these last two fiscal years would have resulted in numerous cuts across the board.”

One of the brightest spots for Wallace during her tenure has been working with the commissioners, elected officials and county supervisors.

“It has been an absolute pleasure working with all of the elected officials, supervisors and employees over the years,” she said. “None of what the commission has accomplished would have been possible without their support and dedication. And I would be remiss if I didn’t express a special thanks to Tabatha [Perry, assistant county administrator]. There has never been a time that Tabatha wasn’t willing to do anything I asked of her.”

Looking back to when she came on board in 2014, Wallace said quickly realized trust needed to be restored among and between the commission office, county employees, elected officials and the public.

“My first goal when I was appointed county administrator was to repair and re-establish the trust between [the commission office], employees and the public,” she said. “I feel confident that this has been achieved. Without trust and support from all three, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish any of our other goals.”

Some of those goals – now accomplishments – include:

  • Completing numerous facility upgrades, including eradicating the pigeon damage to the courthouse and installing deterrent spikes; replacing the Upshur County Public Library’s roof and HVAC units; and renovating the Circuit Courtroom, among a slew of other projects. “I hope the public knows how lucky we are to have our maintenance department,” Wallace said. “Under the direction of [facilities and maintenance director] Greg Harris, they have completed numerous projects that previously would have been bid out, and as a result, have saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
  • Significantly improving the county’s financial picture by tackling loans that had fallen out of compliance; restructuring county debt into bonds; and paying off a sizable portion of debt in the fiscal year 2017-2018, which ultimately saved the county approximately $200,000 in interest payments.
  • Reorganizing the staffing structure at the Upshur County E911 Communication to add an assistant director as well as one supervisor and three telecommunicators per shift; and upgrading the 911 Center’s radio system, Computer-Aided Dispatch system and phone system. “We are in the process of installing a microwave link between the Tallmansville Radio Tower and E911 Communication Center which will provide a direct connection to the state’s Interoperable Radio System,” Wallace said.
  • Establishing a Court Security Advisory Board and installing equipment to enhance the security of the Upshur County Magistrate and Circuit Courtrooms.

Wallace has also enjoyed witnessing the expansion of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department through the hiring of a new director, Jeremiah McCourt, and enhancing amenities at the Upshur County Recreational Park and Pool in Tennerton.

“I’m excited to see the economic impact this position brings to our region,” she said.

Also near and dear to Wallace’s heart is the James W. Curry Library and Park, which provided a welcome and scenic respite from her office once a month for Curry Advisory Board meetings. Over the past eight years, Wallace said she’s seen the Curry Library transform from a mere “free DVD rental site” to what it is now: a flourishing, full-service library with well-attended children’s and adult programming under the enthusiastic and diligent leadership of head librarian Judith Williams.

Upshur County Commission President Kristie Tenney could fill up pages about Wallace’s leadership, grit and talents, she said Wednesday.

“I could go on and on about how awesome Carrie is,” Tenney said. “We’re really going to miss her. It’s been a pleasure to work alongside her, and I sincerely wish her continued success in all her future endeavors.”

Assistant county administrator Tabatha Perry, who will replace Wallace as administrator on May 1, said she and Wallace complemented one another seamlessly.

“We made an excellent team and balanced each other out well,” Perry said Thursday. “It has been an absolute pleasure working with Carrie over the past seven years. She will be truly missed in our office, and we are all grateful for the dedication and hard work she has provided to the county.”

Commissioner Sam Nolte echoed Perry’s sentiments, saying he’s been continually impressed by Wallace’s attention to detail, as did commissioner Terry Cutright.

“She’s a really sincere person, and she cares about the county and the citizens and how everything affects everyone,” Nolte said Wednesday. “She always gives us her point of view, and that’s what you’re looking for – someone who can get you as much information as possible so you can make the best possible decision.”

Wallace’s abilities haven’t gone unnoticed at the state level, and other counties have remarked on the stellar job she’s done as administrator, Nolte said.

“Her skill set is extremely unique — the attention to detail and just how thoughtful she is,” he said. “I have always felt we had the best administrator in the state.”

Wallace has a few ideas about some of the areas Upshur County needs to address going forward. She says there are issues to resolve regarding fire service in the county and how regional jail bills are calculated. She also thinks the county needs to create a Planning Commission to develop a countywide strategic plan for future economic growth and expansion; work more closely with the Upshur County Development Authority; and assist the Buckhannon-Upshur Airport Authority in extending the regional airport’s runway to enable larger aircraft to land.

Wallace has always taken her job seriously but also makes time for fun with family and friends — and hopes to do more of that in the future. She loves to travel and relax on Stonewall Jackson Lake in her downtime. She’s also been sky-diving, which she finds exhilarating, and wants to go again. But snowboarding is her favorite recreational pastime.

“I like to snowboard for fun,” she said. “I started skiing when I was two, and my dad taught me to snowboard when I was 12, and I never skied again.”

These days, Wallace enjoys sharing her love of skiing and snowboarding with her kids on winter weekends. But on a daily basis year-round, she indulges her “dangerous love” of regularly checking real estate listings.

“I’m always sending my husband houses to look at,” she says, smiling. “He worries because every time I say I’m going to do something, I end up doing it.”

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