Lincolnton’s City Manager and Finance Director Steve Zickefoose announced his retirement effective Dec. 31. At a specially called meeting held Thursday morning, council voted unanimously to hire Assistant City Manager Richard “Ritchie” Haynes effective Jan. 1, 2021 as the new city manager. Haynes will begin the search for a finance director for the city immediately. The city is hiring for a new finance director, with Haynes making the selection, immediately to give Zickefoose transition time with both Haynes and the new finance director, according to Mayor Ed Hatley.
“We could not have made the changes that Lincolnton has gone through without Steve,” Hatley said. “We want to express our continued and sincere appreciation for all that he has done. We want a smooth transition. We were glad that Steve gave us so much lead time. It’s really a more traditional set-up to have a city manager and finance director be two different positions. Steve held both positions because finance was his specialty.”
Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Martin Eaddy commented that the citizens will likely never know how Zickefoose has revolutionized doing business with the city.
“It’s a shame they’ll never know all that’s happened,” he said. “I will be eternally grateful for all he’s done.”
Haynes assumed the role of assistant city manager the beginning of 2017. Prior to that, he was the parks and recreation director. He grew up in Lincoln County, graduating from Lincolnton High School in 1990 before earning his bachelor’s degree in public management from Appalachian State University in 1994. He has worked with the city in various administrative roles since 2002.
“I’m excited about being able to serve the citizens of Lincolnton, but I’m also sad because Steve and I have had a great relationship both professionally and personally,” Haynes said. “I hate to see him go because he’s been a pleasure to work with and he’s done so much for Lincolnton. I hope I can follow in his footsteps and continue with all the growth and successes that we’ve had. I’ve grown up here, I love Lincolnton and I look forward to working with the council and citizens to make Lincolnton the best city it can be.”
Zickefoose was first hired by the city in 2014 as the finance director by then City Manager Jeff Emory. Zickefoose started with the city the day after he retired as Lincoln County Schools’ Assistant Superintendent for Business. He began his first job in the field of finance in 1979 with the county of Halifax, Va. in their local government. From there, he 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.
“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,” Zickefoose said in an interview with Times-News in 2014. “I still want to stay active, so it just worked out for me. I’ll be continuing to work in the field of finance, and I’ll be going back to local government setting where I started years and years ago.”
Zickefoose was named interim city manager in January 2016 and the city’s permanent manager in July 2016. He continued to serve as the city’s finance director as well.
“It was July of 2014 that I accepted the finance director’s position and I was honored to be able to put several things into play including saving money and process changes,” Zickefoose said in a 2016 interview with Times-News. “I quickly got to know the community. Being named the interim manager in January was a baptism by fire. I honestly thought I would fill that role temporarily and then continue my duties as finance director. After being in the role for several months I became personally vested in the process of improvement and change. I felt like it was something that I wanted the opportunity to see through and make this city better by executing our mission statement.”
In his retirement, Zickefoose said that he wanted to enjoy some personal time, play the guitar and work on classic cars.
“I’ve been working somewhere for the past 50 years and I’m at a point where I feel like I’m ready to enjoy what time I have left,” he said. “I’m proud of the accomplishments that have been made but I feel like the city is in a good position for me to step aside.”
Zickefoose’s annual salary is $133,000, according to Hatley. Council voted to hire Haynes with a salary of $128,000 but will receive a longevity adjustment of $3,200 prior to starting as city manager which will bring his salary up to $131,200.