Bladen County, Elizabethtown, Cape Fear Winery and Distillery

Border Belt People: Greg Martin retires after 25 years as Bladen manager

By Kerria Weaver

Bladen County Manager Greg Martin, who has been working in local government for almost 30 years, is retiring. He first worked in local government starting in early 1996. 

The Border Belt Independent spoke with Martin about his time in the position and his decision to retire.

Q. What was your upbringing and journey to being county manager of Bladen County? Are there any other positions that you had before being appointed county manager?

I was born in Fayetteville. My mom is originally from Robeson County and my dad is originally from Bladen County. I went to junior high and high school in Lumberton and my family lives in Lumberton now. I went to school at UNC Charlotte and stayed there for graduate school and received my master’s degree in public administration. I was the town administrator for the Town of Carthage when I first got into graduate school. Then I worked here in Bladen for a couple of years as the assistant county manager. I also was the county manager in Greene County.

Greg Martin inspects a refurbished ambulance that’s about to be put into service with Bladen County EMS Director David Howell. One of Martin’s accomplishments as county manager was the consolidation of local volunteer rescue squads into a centralized EMS service with 24/7 paramedic care and a modern facility. Photo by Les High

Q. What were the duties of the position?

I basically oversee the day-to-day operations of the county on a daily basis. One of my biggest responsibilities is the development of the recommended annual budget each year for the county, which includes appropriations to the school systems and community college and then those accounting services.

Q. What does a typical day as county manager look like?

One of the aspects of local government and local government administration that I enjoyed most is the diverse nature of the issues that you deal with on a regular basis. One morning I had a meeting with the DOT district engineer. Then that afternoon I had a meeting about a fire study. 

We can be dealing with emergency services issues like EMS, fire and public safety. We even dealt with the community college and school system. There’s just such a wide range of services we deal with on any given day and that’s really the best part about this. 

Q. How long were you the county manager of Bladen County? When is your last day as county manager?

I started the position Oct.1, 2001. My last day is Jan. 31

Q. Did you have a particular reason for retiring at this moment?

I’ve been here a long time. I’ll have my time in the retirement system for 30 years and so I’m going to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.

Bladen County, Elizabethtown, Greene's Lake Conservation Park.
Greene’s Lake & Conservation Park at the Elizabethtown Industrial Park is another example of cooperation among the town, county and local businesses. The park is part of a mixed use area that’s being developed with 200 new homes. Martin says part of Bladen County’s future lies in its access to recreation facilities and the outdoors. Photo by Les High

Q. What were some of your goals while being county manager? What more do you wish you could have accomplished while in the position, if there is anything?

As county manager the board helps us set the goals and we do planning sessions. My role is to try to implement the goals and work toward the vision that the board establishes. I’ve been so fortunate to work with commissioners who are so supportive and desire the best for the county. We just went through a really effective community-driven strategic planning process a couple of years ago that has been very helpful. It really helps to provide direction for the county. It’s important for county managers to focus on the board’s goals because you help implement the policies and the direction established by the board. Working in conjunction with the commissioners on the vision and goals for the county is what we do.

Q.Have you received any feedback or comments from people about your retirement from the county manager? 

Some people are surprised that I’m retiring or that I’m leaving the position, but for the most part people have been positive, which I’m appreciative of.

Q. For the next county manager, what advice would you give them when it comes to the position?

To be mindful. One thing is to be mindful of the importance of positive relationships and working together. There’s definitely a team effort in Bladen County and we’re fortunate to have such wonderful community partners and officials to work with. That would be one piece of advice.

Q. List four or five things you’re most proud of as county manager

One thing that I’m proud of is our county’s focus on being a good financial steward of the taxpayers’ money and on maintaining a culture of fiscal responsibility.  This is important for local governments. Our board of county commissioners takes this responsibility seriously.

Another is our focus on positive relationships with other organizations in the community, such as towns, hospitals, economic development organizations, the community college, and others. This is particularly important in smaller communities. Bladen County leaders understand that working cooperatively is a competitive advantage.  

A third is the opportunity to have been involved in the affiliation process with Cape Fear Valley Health System to lease and ultimately purchase Bladen County Hospital, which was in serious financial difficulty. That was a challenging time for Bladen County. Fifteen years later, it’s clear that this was an important decision to affiliate with a great hospital system that continues to support our community and serve the healthcare needs of our residents.  

A fourth is the community-driven strategic planning process that our county initiated in 2022. It has been very successful from the standpoint of working together to determine the collective vision and goals for our community. As we go forward, it is helpful in ensuring that the work of the various agencies and organizations is in alignment with and is advancing the vision and goals.

Q. What do you think Bladen’s County’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are?

Strengths of Bladen County include the fact that residents seem to love Bladen County.  It’s a close-knit community and people work together and have a strong sense of community pride. 

Another strength is strong leadership in local community organizations such as Bladen’s Bloomin’, which works in cooperation with Bladen County and the towns to strengthen and enhance business and economic opportunities. The recently completed new Town Square project in Bladenboro is a great example of success.

Another strength is that Bladen County has wonderful natural resources and outdoor recreational opportunities such as lakes, rivers, hunting opportunities, Brown’s Creek Mountain Bike Trail and the ATV park. This provides the opportunity to strengthen the promotion of Bladen County as Mother Nature’s playground.

A threat is the demographic projection of a declining population

Q. Twenty years from now, what’s your vision of Bladen County and what will it take to achieve that vision?

My 20-year vision for Bladen County is that it will be a safe, economically thriving, growing community of choice for residents to live, learn, work and play.  This should come to fruition as leaders continue to work cooperatively with state and local officials to invest in infrastructure, education, public safety and recreational opportunities. 

Bladen County, Elizabethtown, Cape Fear Winery and Distillery
Retiring Bladen County Manager Greg Martin, left, looks at a map of a proposed mixed use project at Elizabethtown Industrial Park with economic development executive director Chuck Heustess. The site already includes industry and businesses, a park, and a winery and distillery. An upcoming phase calls for 200 homes. Martin says the partnership among the county, town and economic development office has been a key to Bladen County’s success. Photo by Les High