Town Official Behind Pinwheel Controversy Leaving

After 14 years with the Town of Smithfield, controversial Planning Director Paul Embler announced his retirement Tuesday night at the monthly meeting of the Smithfield Town Council.

Embler’s last day on the job will be July 1st.

Embler’s announcement comes less than 3 weeks after he mistakenly ordered the removal of 750 pinwheels that lined the Johnston County Department of Social Services property in observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month saying the display violated town code.

After social workers and volunteers removed the pinwheels on April 12th they were informed by the town manager a mistake had been made and the pinwheels could be reinstalled.

Whether the pinwheel incident had anything to do with Embler’s departure, town officials would not comment. However one town councilman told WTSB News on Wednesday “the timing is interesting.”

It was one of several controversial enforcement actions Embler and the planning department have taken in recent years.

When asked to reflect upon his time with the Town, Mr. Embler quickly discusses how much he enjoyed serving the citizens of Smithfield and how his intent was always to improve the quality of life for all.

“Paul has been a mainstay in our planning department for 14 years. He has been active in the community and has been involved in every major construction project during that time. His expertise, knowledge and commitment will be surely missed,” stated Town Michael Scott. “It was not unusual for me to come into Town Hall after hours or on weekends to find Paul furthering a significant project that he felt could not wait until the next working day. I offer him all the best in his retirement and thank him for his committed service to the Town of Smithfield.”

In 2016, a Smithfield business owner appeared before the town council calling for Embler’s firing.  Some business owners believe Embler’s departure could actually improve growth and development within the town.

Human Resource Director Tim Kerigan said a search for Embler’s replacement will begin immediately.