Retirement effective July 1, 2021
Harnett County Manager Paula Stewart announced she will retire effective July 1, 2021, after more than 25 years with Harnett County and 9 years of service with state government.
Stewart came to Harnett County as Director of Information Technology in 1996. In February 2015, she joined the County’s Administrative team as Interim Deputy County Manager, and three months later was named Deputy County Manager. In April 2018, the Harnett County Board of Commissioners appointed Stewart County Manager, making her the first female to serve in that role. Prior to her employment with Harnett County, she worked for nine years as a Budget Analyst and Applications Analyst at N.C. State University.
Stewart expressed gratitude for being able to serve Harnett County residents for the last two and a half decades. “It has been an honor and privilege to serve as a Harnett County employee since May 1, 1996, first as Information Technology Director, then as Deputy County Manager, and more recently as County Manager,” stated Stewart. “I have had the distinct pleasure of working alongside many dedicated and hard-working county employees during my career. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to serve with them and, more importantly, the outstanding jobs they have done and continue to do every day. I will be forever grateful to those who had confidence in me and supported me during the past twenty-five years working in Harnett County government.”
As County Manager, Stewart has focused on improving customer service to the County’s residents, expanding access to County services, enhancing communication with citizens to tell Harnett County’s story throughout the region, and managing growth in a fiscally responsible and sustainable way that preserves the past and embraces the opportunities that come with that growth.
Harnett County has completed various projects that have helped move the County forward during Stewart’s service as County Manager. She has developed strategic partnerships that have provided additional services to residents of Harnett County, including the Boys & Girls Club of Central NC: Robin Paige Club and YMCA of the Sandhills: Saleeby Family Branch, and secured space for the ARC of Harnett County/Wake Enterprises Program. She has also led County efforts during emergency events, such as Hurricane Florence and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stewart has improved the County’s financial planning and fiscal responsibility through the implementation of more comprehensive processes for developing the County’s annual operating budget and Capital Improvements Program. This includes revising the County’s Fiscal Policy, and creating a Budget Office with staff dedicated to developing and monitoring taxpayer dollars.
Stewart reflected on numerous successes during her tenure. “There have been many accomplishments in Harnett County under my leadership, and I’m extremely proud of them,” stated Stewart. “Some of the highlights include the renovations at the former Benhaven, Boone Trail and Shawtown schools and the construction of the new Harnett County Resource Center and Library. Each of these facilities offers enhanced services and opportunities for our citizens, including park amenities. The Resource Center and Library marks a significant step forward in accomplishing the master plan for county government that was in place when I first arrived. Department services are now located in convenient locations throughout the Harnett County Government Complex and provide greater accessibility to citizens. These community facilities and other park projects, including the Cape Fear Shiner County Park and Ponderosa Park, will be gathering places for our citizens for years to come.”
Stewart grew up in Lillington and currently resides in Angier. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a Certified Government Chief Information Officer with the UNC School of Government. Stewart also earned the Credentialed Manager designation from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) in February 2019.
She and her husband, Del, have been married for 31 years and have two daughters – Kelly and Natalie.