Town names utilities chief

pseligson@newsobserver.comMarch 14, 2014 

Ken Griffin started as Smithfield’s new public utilities director on Feb. 24.

PAULA SELIGSON — pseligson@newsobserver.com

Smithfield’s new public utilities director comes to town with decades of experience.

Ken Griffin, 63, has moved to Smithfield from Tampa, Fla., where he was as a consulting engineer on water and sewer projects. Before that, he worked in municipal water, sewer and electric departments for about 20 years.

Griffin began work in Smithfield on Feb. 24. His first-year salary is about $87,000.

“I absolutely love Smithfield,” he said. “Very pleased to be here.”

Griffin graduated from the University of California at Irvine in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. He earned a master’s degree in freshwater science in 1974 and a master’s in environmental engineering in 1980. He received his doctorate in leadership from the University of Mississippi in 1997.

On the electric side, Griffin hopes to keep electricity rates stable and perhaps lower them if discussions with Duke Energy prove fruitful. “I think that’s really key for the continued vitality of our community to grow and have the kind of economic development that we all want,” he said, adding that he also wants explore solar-power.

Griffin plans to start tackling the maintenance that needs to be done on the town’s utilities infrastructure, especially in the water department. He wants to catalog all the equipment, figure out how long each piece will last and when it will need to be repaired or replaced.

Griffin wants to try to find outside sources of funding, such as grants, to pay for as much of that as possible. “So that we can devote the resources, the manpower and budget to being able to catch up with where we’d like to be in terms of repair and replacement and maintenance for our system,” he said.

Griffin also wants to expand the town’s GIS system to include more mapping of Smithfield’s water and electric lines.

Griffin said he came to Smithfield because he likes working with all three utilities: water, sewer and electricity. He has two adult daughters, and one lives in Virginia, so he also wanted to be closer. His wife, Connie Griffin, is a psychologist.

Town Manager Paul Sabiston said Griffin’s overall professionalism stood out during the hiring process. Twenty-eight people applied for the job, and only two were finalists. Smithfield spent about $600 on travel expenses, a hiring panel and food and refreshments. The hiring process began after Earl Botkin left for Kinston in November.

“(Griffin) just seemed able to handle a lot of different, high-level decision-making processes and administration,” Sabiston said. “That’s a tough skill and to be able to do that in both electric and water and sewer.”

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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