City Manager Jeff Emory announced his decision Wednesday to hire Lincoln County Schools’ Assistant Superintendent for Business Steve Zickefoose as the city’s new finance director.
After three months of thorough application review and interviews, he felt that Zickefoose was perfect for the position.
“The finance director’s position is a critical position for the city,” Emory explained. “Finance includes utility billing, accounting, pay roll, and the finance director oversees all those functions and many more. I believe that with Zickefoose’s vast experience with the school system that he would be the ideal person to take over, due to the retirement of Georgetta Williams. So much of what he was involved in with the school system will apply to the same type of duties he has with the city. I would also point out that the individuals I spoke to that Steve worked with previously spoke very highly of him.”
According to Zickefoose, his passion for finance began during his college years at Virginia Tech. In 1978, he graduated with a major in finance and a minor in insurance.
“I began my first job in the field of finance in 1979 with the county of Halifax in their local government, which is extremely similar to the city of Lincolnton,” he said. “From there, I went on to the school system of Halifax and got into school finance.”
After three years working in the Halifax school system, Zickefoose moved to Lincoln County in 1992 to work with Lincoln County Schools.
“Along the way, while I was working for the school system, I decided to continue my education and got a degree in business administration,” he said. “So, that’s just kind of what I’ve always had a passion for — finance and accounting.”
Last month, Zickefoose announced he would be retiring after serving the state for the past 30 years.
“The opportunity came up with the city, and it just so happened to exactly coincide with my retirement here, so I decided to make an application for that,” he said. “I still want to stay active, so it just worked out for me. So, I’ll be continuing to work in the field of finance, and I’ll be going back to local government setting where I started in years and years ago… so there really won’t be much of a learning curve.”
Zickefoose felt he was qualified for the position because several of his responsibilities with the school mirrors the responsibilities the city finance director would have. However, he had considered whether he wanted to remain in the workforce.
“At first, I had to consider whether I should go back to work immediately or not, but when I looked at this opportunity, it just kind of all made sense to me,” he said. “One thing I did initially was go to the City (Hall), and I looked up their mission statement. And their mission statement basically states that they want to responsibly provide a cost-effective service to our citizens, which will protect and improve the quality of their lives. And that statement tells me that the city is a first class organization that always puts the people first, whether it’s the citizens or the employees that work there. And that tells me that this is a fantastic place to be.”
With a strong finance department, Zickefoose hopes his leadership will allow the department to continue to grow and improve.
“The city has an excellent staff and finance department,” Zickefoose said. “Williams was a great director…and they have an outstanding reputation and method for doing business. Now, I am a big believer in participatory management, which means you allow the individuals that you work with to utilize their talents and contribute to the operation. I firmly believe the best ideas and the best ways to make improvements always come from within. You’ve got to trust the people that you work with…once I come in, I’ve got to acclimate to the position and learn from them.”
While Zickefoose has kept busy over the years with his responsibilities with the school district, he tries to make time for his hobbies.
“I like music,” he said. “I play guitar and write music, and I’ve been doing that since I was 15 years old. It’s one of my ways of stress relief — to just sit down and play the guitar. You just kind of escape into that.”
Classic cars are another one of Zickefoose’s interests.
“I spend some time with my two sons helping them get some vehicles and doing some renovations on those,” he said. “I have one myself. We’ll continue to do those kinds of things and working on cars — fixing them up and bringing them back to life. I just like that old classic look. So that’s what I spend a lot of my free time on.”
Zickefoose will officially retire as the financial director for Lincoln County Schools on June 30 and will begin his role as finance director for Lincolnton on July 1.