Stokes County commissioners approved a replacement for retiring county manager Rick Morris on June 25.
Jake Oakley, who has served as interim manager since the first week in January, accepted the position.
He’s worked for the county for the past 32 years and began his career in the mapping department before transitioning to GIS (geographic information systems) supervisor, and the county’s tax administrator in 2007.
“I’m thankful to be doing this and I appreciate the opportunity,” he said.
Oakley helped craft the 2018-19 county budget which approved six new jailer positions, a full-time fire marshal for the Town of Walnut Cove, along with four SUV’s and two trucks for the sheriff’s department.
“I think the county is in good shape right now. We have a good fund balance. The budget may not have addressed every issue each department is facing, as far as personnel, but I think the services can still be provided in a quality manner. Later, commissioners will likely address some issues that look at health and emergency services,” he said.
Oakley’s cognizant of the challenges the county faces.
“We’re going to have three different board members coming on at the end of the year. They should fit in and get acclimated quickly because they’re businessmen and one running was a county manager,” he said. “We have a few important projects going on, we’re in the middle of the jail expansion,” which is expected to be completed around February of 2019.
Then, there’s LifeBrite. The community hospital of Stokes is currently entangled in a lawsuit with Blue Cross Blue Shield and the insurance company’s network is slated to be removed in August due to claims the hospital billed for laboratory services that were not payable.
Oakley said having medical services and an emergency room is important to the county, and is why the commissioners fought to keep the hospital doors open in 2016 when Pioneer filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“The county owns the land and the building; LifeBrite is operating and leasing. We’ll be looking into that more soon, as soon as we know more of what is happening.”
Oakley is an advocate for transparency and believes citizens want to know where their tax dollars are being spent.
“On the tax bills coming out, they’ll see the tax rate for the schools and the tax rate for the county,” he said.
He also would like to limit closed session meetings.
“When doors are closed suspicions arise. We’ll have no more of those than we possibly have to,” he said, but noted most closed sessions address personnel issues.
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.