Orange County government held a meet-and-greet for newly hired County Manager Bonnie Hammersley in downtown Hillsborough on Friday.
“I’ve been in county government for 26 years,” said Hammersley. “And those experiences I’ve had, I believe, can help Orange County. Specifically, working in collaboration with other forms of government within the Orange County area will be a focus.”
Hammersley comes to her new job as Orange County Manager from a county administrator job in Muskegon County, Michigan.
Prior to that, she worked for 21 years in the Dane County, Wisconsin government.
Between greeting people at her Friday afternoon meet-and-greet at the Link Government Services Center, Hammersley told WCHL that she’ll draw on her past experience when it comes to the big issues facing Orange County.
That includes “listening to all the stakeholders,” as she likes to put it, when tackling challenging issues such as school funding, and solid-waste management.
She said she’s had some eye-opening recent experience with the latter, and finds that Orange County actually has a lot to be proud of already when it comes to waste disposal.
“In my current position, I focused on creating a sustainability department,” said Hammersley, “and working with that department to support the municipalities, and to look at how we can address some of those challenging issues.
“I think that Orange County is much farther ahead in sustainability and recycling.”
Commissioner Renee Price attended Friday’s meet-and-greet, along with a few other fellow commissioners. She praised Hammersley’s reputation as a consensus builder, and said she hopes the new manager can strengthen essential inter-local relationships.
“She seems to have had a lot of background with bringing people together, bringing communities together,” said Price. “And that’s what we’ve been looking for in Orange County, working with the towns – Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, even Mebane and Durham.”
Board of Commissioners Chair Barry Jacobs said that Hammersley was chosen from a list of 51 applicants based on that reputation, plus her body of work, her demeanor, and even how she grew up.
“She understands a community that has a large university – a large state university, because she worked in Madison, Wisconsin, which is also a very progressive community, just like Chapel Hill-Carrboro,” said Jacobs. “So we thought, not only would she be comfortable with the dynamics, but she grew up on a farm, so she understands agriculture.”
Jacobs mentioned that Hammersley has served on an advisory board for alternative energy – a credential he especially admires.
He’s also very impressed that she promised to meet with all 800 town staff members within her first month on the job.
Hammersley’s first day on the job is June 25th. She replaces retiring Interim Manager Michael Talbert.