There’s still work for Clarence Grier as deputy city manager in Roanoke, Virginia, but Cumberland County is on his mind.
After all, he’s heading our way as the newly hired county manager.
“I’ve always viewed government as something that is to make everyone’s lives and the community better,” says Grier, 57, who in March will succeed retiring Amy Cannon as the county’s chief executive.
The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners voted 6-1 Monday to hire Grier to oversee this county of more than 335,000 residents and its current budget of $552,930,111 a year. Commissioner Michael Boose voted in opposition because, he said, he did not like the process of selecting a final candidate.
Grier has been with the city of Roanoke since 2021 and was deputy county manager for Guilford County, North Carolina, from 2015 until 2021. He was assistant county manager and chief finance officer for Orange County from 2009 to 2015. Grier is certified as a city-county Manager, according to a county news release, as well as a certified public accountant.
He’s a down-to-earth sort of fellow, too.
“I am truly humbled and honored about being selected,” says Grier, who will earn an annual salary of $260,000. “Yes, it’s a big responsibility, but I always like challenges. I don’t consider them challenges but opportunities. Following someone like Amy, there already is an established culture. I want to make sure we keep moving on in the community. I want to start working on key initiatives of the board. I liked all of the commissioners. The interview process was thorough. I greatly enjoyed it. I got a lot of good feedback. I had a pretty good feeling about their goals and objectives. And we have a good staff.”
Grier grew up in Greensboro, where his father worked as an account executive for Pillsbury’s southeast region and his mother was an advanced math teacher at Walter Hines Page High School. He graduated in 1987 from Campbell University in Buies Creek, where he majored in accounting and was a standout guard and power forward with the Camels basketball teams under Jerry Smith and Billy Lee, averaging 24.3 points per game his senior year as the Big South Conference Player of the Year. He was drafted by the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association.
“Getting to the NBA was my lifelong dream,” Grier says. “But I was waived by the Houston Rockets. I decided to become a CPA.”
His skills would take Grier to Roanoke, where he met his wife of 31 years, Yvetta. She is a behavioral health supervisor with Moses H. Cone Hospital in Greensboro. The couple have a son and daughter living in Charlotte, where Grier says his son is an accounting consultant and his daughter is an elementary teacher.
Clarence Grier and his wife are looking forward to calling Cumberland County home and serving the communities of Eastover, Falcon, Fayetteville, Godwin, Hope Mills, Linden, Spring Lake, Stedman and Wade.
“Fort Bragg is right there,” he says. “You have three universities. You have Spring Lake and Hope Mills. I liked the baseball stadium.”
He said he is excited about the events center planned for downtown Fayetteville, an $85 million structure to be built across from the Cumberland County Courthouse.
“I liked the overall feel of the residential communities. I just liked everything. I just like how it has progressed with all the shops and restaurants downtown.”
Grier still has work to do in Roanoke, a scenic town in the Blue Ridge Mountains for which he has an affection.
“Roanoke is my wife’s hometown,” he says. “I have a strong connection to Roanoke. I want to make sure they are in a good place before I leave. But opportunities to be a manager don’t come up often.”
‘A good nervousness’
The job can be daunting, with responsibilities that include oversight of public safety to the school system to public health, mental health, water, libraries, parks and recreation, and emergency management.
Grier says, too, that he hopes to work with the city of Fayetteville toward a better community.
“I want see how we can work together and have commonality,” he says. “I want to see how we can work with the city because they are a viable part of the county. I always try to find a common bond with everybody I work with. It goes back to when I was playing basketball. The goal was to win, at the end of the day. We are all in this together. We want to work together for what’s best for the community.”
City Manager Doug Hewett welcomes the opportunity to work with Grier.
“I am pleased the county commissioners appointed Clarence Grier to serve as the new county manager,” he says. “His experience, record of success and professional reputation are a great fit for Cumberland County, and I am confident he will bring the right leadership at the right time in the right place to follow the success of retiring manager Amy Cannon. City leaders and I look forward to deepening the strong relationship between the city and county under Mr. Grier’s leadership. Working together, we can create a safer, stronger and healthier community for all residents of both Fayetteville and Cumberland County.”
A bit nervous?
“Yes, this is the biggest job I’ve ever had,” says Grier, who follows in the footsteps of county managers including Cannon (2014-2022), James Martin (2000-2014) and Cliff Strassenburg (1973-2000). “But it’s a good nervousness. The unknown always makes you nervous. But it’s a good staff and a great organization.”
It’s a matter, Grier says, of getting acclimated and making sure everything moves in a positive manner.
“I just have to make sure I fit into the puzzle,” he says.
Glenn Adams, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, believes Grier is the right fit for county manager.
“We are excited to welcome Clarence Grier to Cumberland County to serve as our next county manager,” Adams says. “He has roots in this area and his background and experience make him an exceptional choice to lead our organization and accomplish the board’s priorities and objectives to continue our forward momentum.”
Grier says he looks forward to sitting down with commissioners and learning about their goals and plans for the county and implementing those goals and plans.
“I’m a pretty reserved guy, but I’m very excited about this,” he says. “I’ve been trying to hold my emotions in. I’m enthusiastic and happy about coming. I cannot put it into words. The main thing is getting there and sitting in the chair. I plan to listen a lot because I’m the new kid on the block.”
While I’m not so sure about that multipurpose events center in front of the courthouse, I’ve got a good feeling about Clarence Grier as our next county manager. After all, Clarence Grier already has Cumberland County on his mind.
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.