GARLAND — The town of Garland officially welcomed its new town clerk and finance officer during a special meeting Monday night.
Jennifer Gray, a native of the Beaverdam community, swore the oath of office surrounded by family and friends.
Following an emergency meeting of the Garland Board of Commissioners Oct. 12, Mayor Winifred Murphy announced that the board accepted the resignation of town clerk and finance officer Pam Cashwell and hired Gray as her successor. Gray, who previously applied for the deputy clerk position, started in the head clerk capacity on Monday at a salary of $31,200.
She took the oath just hours later.
“This was her first day,” Murphy said at the meeting. “We got a lot done. She’s a fast learner and we look forward to working with her.”
Gray’s parents, Perry and Teresa Gray, were in attendance along with her son, Jonathan Herring, and sister, Amanda Beatty. With the oath, Gray became the second town clerk in the family, as Beatty serves in the same capacity for the town of Roseboro. Following the oath of office, during which Herring held the Bible for his mother, Gray went around the table and accepted the congratulations and well-wishes from all board members.
“I would just like to thank the mayor and the commissioners for this opportunity and I would like to say that I hope you are as happy with me here as I am going to be with you guys,” said Gray.
Commissioner Ralph Smith replied with a hearty, “welcome aboard.”
During the meeting, the board voted to allow Gray to attend Fayetteville Tech to take the proper class to become a notary public, at a cost of $50 for the class and $25.50 for the book. Gray was also authorized by the board to attend training classes on ORBIT (Online Retirement Benefits through Integrated Technology), an online tool offered through N.C. Retirement Systems that covers local government retirement reporting. That class, at Wayne Community College, comes at no cost.
Murphy said Gray was also inquiring as to whether accumulated sick leave from her state job could be transferred to the town job.
Gray worked as an office assistant to superintendent Shane Freeman at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), specifically Jones Lake State Park in Bladen County, since 2008. A Cumberland County native, Gray was raised in the Beaverdam community about a mile from the Bladen/Sampson line, roughly seven miles outside of Roseboro.
She said the new job keeps her close to home, while allowing her schooling to work.
“(The town clerk job) is more along the lines of what I went to school for,” Gray said. “I just wanted to get back into accounting and finance. I’m excited about it, to be back dealing with the budget and dealing with posting and general ledger stuff.”
A graduate of Cape Fear High School, Gray studied accounting at Sampson Community College. She said she was looking forward to working in that capacity, and doing so in Garland, where she will take up where town clerk Pam Cashwell left off.
Following Cashwell’s resignation, Murphy lauded her on a “tremendous job” and shared her hope that the sudden void, and a learning curve for the new clerk, would not set the town back in its goal toward rectifying financial records and building a strong foundation for the future. Gray is the second person in six months to take the oath of office for Garland’s town clerk, and the third to serve in the post this year.
“She has a strong background in finance and working with the public,” Murphy said upon Gray’s hire. “I’m glad that the board acted swiftly in making this decision.”
Cashwell had been at the forefront of attempting to rectify Garland’s books in the midst of unprecedented financial woes for the town. She was hired in an official capacity as town clerk in late April, having essentially volunteered her time for the previous two months. She filled a void in the town hall and provided much-needed help in finances, bookkeeping and everyday issues the town was forced to resolve, including the suspension and subsequent dismissal of longtime clerk Teresa Vaught and deputy clerk Kristie Kersey earlier this year.
Teresa Frack was hired in the deputy capacity at the end of May. That hire came in a split vote, with Gray favored “strongly” during that initial hiring process. Now Gray takes her position next to Frack in the town hall offices.
“I’m just excited to be here,” she said. “I’m glad to be in Garland and I hope everything continues to go as smoothly as it has.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.