Jaime Laughter Named New County Manager-Brevard NC

 


Jaime Laughter, town manager of Mills River in Henderson County, was named Transylvania County's new county manager Monday night following a vote of the Board of Commissioners.

Laughter, a Henderson County native, has been managing the steady growth and development of Mills River for the past eight years. She's the first woman hired to manage Transylvania County's 300 employees and its $44 million annual budget. At 34, she's also Transylvania County's youngest manager.

Laughter replaces Arthur C. "Artie" Wilson Jr., who has managed the day-to-day operation of county government for the last 22 years. Wilson announced his retirement in January.

Transylvania County commissioners hired Laughter after a nationwide, months-long search by Developmental Associates, a Chapel Hill company with a close tie to Brevard. The company is led by president and founder Steve Straus who is related to the family of Harry Straus, founder of the Ecusta Paper Corporation in Brevard.

"Jaime has real strengths in bringing people together to achieve goals, and that's going to be key for Transylvania County moving forward, as we work in an ever growing regional economy. Jaime also has a leader's personality - positive, optimistic, engaging and innovative. She will be a great leader for county staff," said Mike Hawkins, county board chairman.

"I think it's interesting that we conducted a nationwide search and had finalists from all over the country, but in the end the best person was just 15 miles away," Hawkins said. "We're very excited about what Jaime will help us accomplish in the upcoming years."

Larry Chapman, vice chairman of the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners, said Laughter "is energetic, has a great positive outlook and a dedication to serving our citizens and working closely with all of our county staff."

"As we head into the future with a number of key issues to address such as economic development, recreation improvements, improving our services to our citizens and infrastructure upgrades, we need a strong leader with not only the outstanding education background but also experience in these areas to provide the needed leadership and direction," Chapman said.

Wilson said there would be a two- to four-week transition period for he and Laughter to work together as she gets settled into her new role.

"It is my goal to make the transition as smooth as possible. From everything I have heard regarding Jaime, she is very smart and a quick learner," Wilson said. "She has a great support team in the department heads and I'm sure she will be a great asset to Transylvania County."

Laughter, who described herself as a collaborator and facilitator, said she's excited about the new opportunity.

"I've watched Transylvania County change a lot. The consistent thing that has impressed me is that everybody has a commitment to their community. There is a sense of wanting to do something great together, even though there are different perspectives out there," Laughter said.

"They are poised to reinvent themselves while honoring their heritage, and they have the people and the infrastructure to do it," Laughter said. "The next 20 years are going to be exciting."

Over the past eight years, Laughter has helped the Town of Mills River plan and build a new town hall and a new 50-acre public park. The town has also seen significant economic development, from the construction of a 90,000-square-foot Ingles grocery store to the construction and opening of Sierra Nevada's new East Coast brewery.

Laughter was hired as Mills River town manager in 2006, three years after the town was incorporated. Prior to that post, she served four years as a transportation planner at the N.C. Department of Transportation and as a community planner for the Town of Cary for two years before that. She is a 2002 graduate of North Carolina State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in political science and minored in geology. She also earned a master's degree in public administration from N.C. State.

Public service runs in the Laughter family. Her father worked for Henderson County for nearly 30 years and retired as head of building inspections and code enforcement.

Commissioner Page Lemel said she's excited about bringing Laughter aboard.

"Given her experiences, she understands being business friendly, she understands economic development and she understands regional opportunities," Lemel said. As a woman with two daughters ages 9 and 5, Laughter also understands the needs of young families.

"We've spent a lot of time talking about the importance of young families to our community. When you put leadership in the hands of exactly what you want in the community, that gives us a huge advantage when it comes to supporting young families," Lemel said.

"She's aware of us. She knows us. She spent time growing up here. The expectation is she will hit the ground running and lead us forward," she said.

Commissioner Jason Chappell said Laughter "brings a wealth of connections from across Western North Carolina and all across the state. She will be a great asset to Transylvania County."

 
 

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