Newton's first full-time planner retires

Glenn Pattishall became Newton's first full-time planning director when he joined the city staff in 1983.

"I had tremendous opportunities here," he said. "I got to define the job. I got to establish the department and then try to get it integrated into everything else the city had going on."

Now after more than 28 years of work, the department is an established part of Newton government, and so is Pattishall, the city's planning director and assistant manager. According to Newton Mayor Anne Stedman, he is a "consummate professional."

"He served the city well for many years. His hard work, dedication and knowledge have helped guide our city to success," Stedman said. "In every decision Glenn has made, he always did what he thought was right for the city and our residents."

That ends on Friday — at least the part about him officially working for the city.

Friday is Pattishall's last day working in his office in Newton City Hall, and his official retirement becomes effective on Jan. 3, just a couple of days after he turns 55.

"I don't have any set plans," he said of retirement. "I have no employment lined up and no contract work — and I am not looking for that or interested in that."

Instead, he said he looks forward to being able to "de-stress" and get accustomed to a retired life that he hopes includes more exercise and time spent outdoors.

"I have things to do at home, some landscaping-type stuff. I also plan to travel with my wife. There's a couple of places we want to go," he said, adding he hopes to be more involved with activities at his church, Harvest Bible Chapel.

That slow-pace of life will likely be a drastic change from the working life Pattishall has known. During his time spent at Newton, he has worked for six city managers, and served as interim city manager three times (1993, 1997, 2006). There were also three annexations during Pattishall's tenure which doubled the city's land area and increased its population by 30 percent. Those details merely scratch the surface of the experience Pattishall had working for the city.

"I am very appreciative to the current and prior mayors, councils and managers who have put their confidence in me during my career in Newton," he said. "I have enjoyed many relationships that have developed over the years with citizens, volunteer boards, commissions and committees and most of all with the dedicated employees that work for the city of Newton."

Looking back on his career in Newton, Pattishall finds many milestones, from implementing the city's first certificate of occupancy program to establishing land use plans. The Sanford native and 1979 Appalachian State University graduate also helped transition the city into 21st century technology as it began to implement global positioning system (GPS) to map city utilities and establish a countywide geographic information system (GIS).

Pattishall obtained his master's degree in political science/public administration in 1985, and during the past decade or more he has played a key role in the city's economic development efforts, including recruitment of Target Corp., ZF Lemforder, Flowers Baking Co., General Dynamics, Sarstedt and CommScope.

Pattishall and the planning department he established also created the first soil erosion and sediment control program in Catawba County.

"There is a lot more to it than just day-to-day zoning and permits and regulations and enforcements," he said. "There is a lot more to it."

Of course many Newton citizens know Pattishall from his duty of enforcing city code and issuing permits.

"When Glenn first came here, I learned he went by the book every way he could over the years. He has mellowed a little bit," long-time Council member Wayne Dellinger said, adding that Pattishall's by-the-book mindset didn't always win him a lot of friends. "I want to tell you the man only did his job, and he did what this board voted for him to do. I think it is an honor to have known you and I appreciate everything you have done."

Pattishall said that being a stickler for the rules wasn't just his job, but a sworn duty.

"You can't do your job to please people," he said. "If it is a law, we have to be sworn to enforce the ordinance, so it was a duty we swore ourselves to do. It wasn't like we had any choice."

He said that when he enforced ordinances, sometimes people didn't like the regulations, but he always tried to treat people fairly.

"I would like to think that it wasn't that people didn't like me personally, but it was because they didn't like the regulations or what I had told them," he said adding that either way, being sworn to enforce code meant he "wasn't going to shirk his responsibilities."

Now as he departs his full-time post as planning director, those he has worked alongside wish him well.

"Although we will miss him," I wish, Glenn, all the best in his retirement," Stedman said.

City Manager Todd Clark echoed that sentiment.

"Thank you, Glenn, for all you have done," he said.

Newton will hold a retirement reception for Pattishall on Jan. 3 from 2-4 p.m.

Newton Public Information Officer Gary Herman contributed to this report.