By Jonathan E. Coleman
After more than 20 years working in various capacities for the Town of Harrisburg, Carl Parmer will soon pack up his office and begin a new phase of his life.
But he won’t soon forget the years he spent serving the town.
Parmer’s career as a public servant began in 1987 when he was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Harrisburg Town Council. He was re-elected in 1989,
In 1993, Parmer ran for mayor on a ticket that included current mayor Tim Hagler and councilman Bill Williams, who continues to serve on the board. Hagler and Williams ran for Town Council, and, along with Parmer, won.
“In the fall of 1993, we got the biggest turnout that had ever voted in Harrisburg,” Parmer recalled. “Over 500 people voted, and we got 70 percent of the votes.”
During his time in office, Parmer worked to bring the town basic amenities, said Lena Bown, a former council member and mayor.
“In the early days, he helped get sewer to areas that didn’t have it,” she recalled. “We got sewer town-wide. We got all the unpaved streets paved. A lot of things like that went on. We didn’t have all those services and he was partly responsible for getting them.”
Parmer would serve four terms as mayor. During his fourth term, the long-time businessman resigned his post to focus his attention on an engineering business he owned and operated with his son.
Hagler, who was mayor pro-tem at the time, became his successor.
“Everything that I did early on, it involved Carl,” Hagler said. “He was my mentor.”
Hagler said he accepted the mayoral post under the condition that the council hire a part-time town administrator to take care of some of the day-to-day business of the town.
The original person hired to fill that position only stayed about five months, Hagler recalled, and when the position opened up again, Parmer was approached about filling it.
“I was confident that he had the ability to do the day-to-day because he was doing it as mayor.”
As the town grew, so too did Parmer’s role, and eventually he became a full-time town administrator, overseeing, among other things, the budget, which has ballooned more than tenfold since he began his work with the town.
Although he was educated in engineering, Parmer prided himself on his understanding of budgets, and his efforts to help keep Harrisburg’s taxes low.
Parmer also recalled early in his career when the Department of Transportation wanted to operate a high speed train between Charlotte and Raleigh, and wanted to close Harrisburg’s north/south streets that crossed the tracks. Many in the town were opposed.
“(DOT) said, ‘we had a public hearing and nobody turned out,’” Parmer recalled. “We said, ‘you had a public hearing on a Wednesday night – pole night – at the fire station on Morehead Road. If you want a public hearing, give us time.”
Parmer and others organized a second public hearing, at which the public spoke out against the road closings. DOT eventually reconsidered the plan.
Parmer also helped negotiate the purchase of 38 acres of land, where, with the help of a $250,000 grant, the current Harrisburg Park and a library now sit.
Despite his many efforts, Parmer is quick to admit it was not his efforts alone that brought such projects to the town.
“You don’t do anything single-handedly,” he said. “It takes a lot of folks in town.”
Parmer said he’s been blessed to oversee some wonderful staff during his years on the town’s payroll.
“I don’t believe in micro-managing,” he said. “I believe you get good people and let them work and stay out of their way. That’s one of the things I believe in, and it’s worked well.”
While Carl had planned to work another year before retiring, the town voted to buy out his contract earlier this year. His final day at Town Hall is June 30, but he’ll stay on the town’s payroll as a consultant until the end of August.
With his work for the town behind him, Parmer said he will again turn his attention to the engineering business he owns with his son.
“We’ll continue to call on Carl in the future, I’m sure,” Hagler said.
• Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at 704-789-9105.