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Q&A: Retiring Carroll County government bureau chief Clay Black a public servant who sought to ‘help everyone’

Longtime Carroll County Government Bureau Chief of Development Review Clay Black retired after 37 years of service on Sept. 30, 2020.
Longtime Carroll County Government Bureau Chief of Development Review Clay Black retired after 37 years of service on Sept. 30, 2020. (Courtesy Photo)

Thirty-seven years ago, Clay Black started working for Carroll County Government as a permits expediter. Last week, he retired as bureau chief of development review.

In Carroll County, if a person wants to build, their plan likely has to go through Black’s office. Development review staff are responsible for reviewing residential, commercial and industrial plans.

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“It’s safe to say that just about every development project in the county and the municipalities Clay has either reviewed or supervised over the past 30-plus years," said Tom Devilbiss, director of land and resource management, in a farewell to Black at the Board of Commissioners Sept. 24 meeting.

Devilbiss, the commissioners and county administrator Roberta Windham praised Black for his dedication.

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“We’re paying tribute to a gentleman today who is the heart and soul of Carroll County," said Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1.

Black worked his way up from the permits office in 1983 to construction agreements coordinator to subdivision review assistant to development systems supervisor before becoming bureau chief in 2005.

The Times caught up with Black to reflect on his career and what it’s meant to him to serve the people of Carroll County.

Q: What would you consider the highlight of your career?

A: Being a committed and knowledgeable leader has been my focus as well as serving the county commissioners, citizens and businesses in Carroll County. My position has given me opportunities to help others with their projects, be it any size project (residential, commercial, etc.) that I am involved with. My position allowed me to meet a vast amount of individuals and to work with amazing colleagues. I am thankful to have earned a M.S. Business Administration from York College in Pennsylvania in 1999 while employed at Carroll County Government through the county’s continuing education program.

Q: Working in the public sector can sometimes be a thankless job. It must be tough when you can’t make every Carroll County resident happy. What’s motivated you to stay in this field, despite the difficult days?

A: Helping others has been a priority for me throughout my life in working and in volunteering. Working for Carroll County Government was a good fit for me as I both like to help others and I enjoy challenges being made into opportunities. Being able to work with citizens, developers, government officials, outside agencies, colleagues and others has been rewarding. Although some were not able to achieve what they’d hoped due to regulatory restrictions, I believe they understood that I gave them respect, honest information and guidance.

Q: How would you describe your work philosophy, your approach to the job?

A: I am a cancer survivor. I had osteosarcoma (bone cancer on my left wrist) when I was 18 years old and in college. As a result, my left arm was amputated. Going through this made me stronger and bolder, and not afraid to speak up. The experience made me realize every second of life is important. My father, Ritchie, was a hardworking man and his work ethic also had a strong influence on me. Both of these factors have motivated me to do my best and to go above and beyond, to help everyone to the best of my ability as codes and regulations allow, and to treat others with respect no matter what income or education level.

Q: Who will take over your position? What advice do you have for them/your department?

A: The Bureau of Development Review will be lead by Ms. Laura Matyas who has been working as a development review coordinator III in the bureau. As the new bureau chief, Laura will bring much experience and energy into her new position. When I had rotator cuff surgery a few years ago, Laura ran the bureau very successfully and efficiently in my absence and I have much confidence she will be a great leader. My advice for Laura, and others in the bureau, is to be the best they can be, to work together, and to look for ways to implement changes to make the bureau operate even better.

Q: How do you plan to spend retirement? Will we still see you around the county?

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A: I retired Sept. 30, 2020. I look forward to having more time to be with my beautiful wife, Brenda. We have two dogs, Buffie and Tony and they will enjoy having me home more. Initially, I have a second rotator cuff surgery scheduled in early October and will be out of commission for eight weeks with physical therapy afterwards. Once I’ve recovered, my days, God-willing, are going to be filled with golfing, bike riding, hiking, reading, traveling, camping, grilling, volunteering in the community, visiting and helping my mother, and assisting my wife in promoting her new book. I grew up in Manchester and my wife grew up in the Westminster area so we have a genuine love and appreciation for Carroll County. We have family and friends in the county and we have favorite stores and businesses in the county; therefore, we plan to continue staying connected to magnificent Carroll County for many years.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: It’s been a wonderful 37 years working for the commissioners and citizens of Carroll County. I thank everyone, county commissioners, leaders, colleagues, citizens, professionals, and others who I’ve worked with and served over the years! May God bless everyone! I wish much continued success, happiness and good health to everyone!

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