By Beth Lawrence
Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Association Director Dan Harbaugh announced last week that he would be leaving the authority and the area soon.
Harbaugh will step down as director on Sept. 27, said TWSA Board Chair Tracy Rodes in a press release.
Harbaugh will leave the job and Jackson County to move home to Bladen County in part to take care of his 87-year-old mother.
He has taken a job with Fayetteville Public Works Commission.
Harbaugh and his wife moved to Jackson County from Bladen County and did not plan to make the move permanent.
“We did not sell our house back in that area,” he said. “We were intending to work here through retirement. My wife, when she committed to come up here, she said ‘But I want to retire back where my family’s at.’”
Harbaugh called Jackson County a wonderful place and said he and the family will return to visit.
He is proud of the work he has accomplished in his seven years as TWSA’s director and hopes the good efforts will continue.
“It has been an extremely interesting time here with Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer,” Harbaugh said. “TWSA was formed as a regional entity way before those type of things typically took place; communities back then recognized that was important for them to work together. What I would hope for the future is that those same goals and efforts will continue. That is important for this region to continue to work as a consolidated entity that focuses on the needs of the community as a whole and try to keep the politics out of any of the decisions that are made with this board.”
He points to decisions for TWSA to give grants for businesses that would bring jobs to the area, spurring economic development in Jackson County, and to TWSA giving money to offset the cost of the town’s fountain and the building of a park in Dillsboro as well as assisting the Cullowhee Volunteer Fire Department.
“Those are the things that the board tried to be responsive to the community as a whole,” he said. “It wasn’t a response only to one part of the board, the town of Sylva, it was saying that this should be done for all of our constituents.”
He also spoke of TWSA stepping in to help out the community of Whittier when its sewer operation was found to be financially unsustainable. TWSA, along with Jackson and Swain counties, decided that it was better for the greater area that the system remain in operation. TWSA devised a way to consolidate Whittier’s sewer system into TWSA without burdening its current customers.
“That’s the kind of things that I think are important for the community going forward – recognizing that there are always challenges for individual communities, but when TWSA looks at those challenges we have to look at it from the perspective of what does that mean for the people we serve within that community,” Harbaugh said.
Rodes spoke highly of Harbaugh’s work and leadership in his time at TWSA.
“He has been a conscientious leader to TWSA staff, (and) has communicated well with the various entities involved in county infrastructure,” Rodes said in a press release. “(He) has kept the board informed, has elevated the authority’s financial stability and has helped to expand the service area.”
Rodes said Harbaugh will be greatly missed by the board and TWSA staff and will be difficult to replace. She praised his “patience, thoroughness, and the ease in which he can disseminate complicated material and data in such a way that laypersons can easily understand.”
The TWSA board met Aug. 26 to determine the next steps and decided to hire an interim director.
Harbaugh plans to assist the authority in making the transition to a new director.
Rodes estimates finding a permanent replacement could take between three and five months.