Smithfield’s public utilities director leaves

pseligson@newsobserver.comNovember 15, 2013 

Smithfield’s public utilities director, Earl Botkin, has left for a new job in Kinston.

Botkin started in Smithfield in March of 2007. His last day was Nov. 12.

Town Manager Paul Sabiston has tapped Pete Connet as interim director. Connet retired as Smithfield’s town manager in 2009.

“I expect it to take several months to find somebody,” Sabiston said. “It can be shorter, but, you know, I expect that as (with) any type of substantial department head, it will take a little bit of time.”

He said Botkin had been great to work with.

The town will pay Connet $45 an hour and expects him to work 20 to 30 hours a week. The town paid Botkin $74,453 a year and will pay the next director somewhere in the range of $61,484 to $94,071.

Botkin, 63, said he chose to become Kinston’s electric system manager because the opportunity was great professionally. But he is emotionally invested in Smithfield, he said, and leaving the staff is the hardest part.

Botkin said every job opportunity has an emotional side, dictated by the heart, and a logical side, dictated by the mind.

“These things just have to be dictated by your logic and not your emotions, and that’s kind of what this was,” Botkin said. “If I had stayed with my emotions, I would have never left. But logic and my wanting to grow as a professional and continue to work at least another five or six years, that’s just where things led me.”

Rhonda Barwick, public service director for Kinston, said she hired Botkin because of his large base of knowledge and his combination of technical and managerial skills.

Botkin began looking at the position in April. Barwick offered him the job earlier this year, but he declined.

“I immediately thought that probably I made a mistake,” Botkin said.

When he had the opportunity to speak with Barwick again a few months later, he “just felt like it was something that was meant to be,” Botkin said. Barwick said she was excited when Botkin changed his mind.

Smithfield has two large water projects going on: sand has been getting into the water system through the intake on the Neuse River, and sludge has been accumulating in the water treatment system. Both Sabiston and Botkin said they are not worried about the transition.

“Earl (Botkin) has agreed to stay in touch as much as needed when he starts his new job,” Sabiston said. “He said he would be available to help us out. He’ll be a good resource in that regard.”

Sabiston added that using outside consultants to work on both projects will help with continuity. Botkin said he is confident his staff will keep things running smoothly.

Botkin said he is proud of his accomplishments while in the job: building a new electricity substation, saving more than $750,000 in sewer treatment costs and cutting down on water loss.

Botkin will continue to live in Smithfield, commuting to Kinston.

“My wife and I love Smithfield,” he said. “We have many, many, many ties. We made a statement that this has been the best move we ever made.”

Botkin came to Smithfield from Kentucky. “This is our home,” he said.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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