By MIKE WILLIAMS
Darlene Burcham will continue on as Pulaski’s Town Manager through the end of 2023, it was announced last Tuesday.
Pulaski Mayor Shannon Collins read a statement at the end of last Tuesday’s meeting of Town Council making the announcement.
“The Mayor and Town Council of the Town of Pulaski are pleased to announce that Darlene Burcham has agreed to extend her contract as Town Manager until the end of 2023,” Collins said.
“Over the last two years Burcham has overseen the Town of Pulaski through the challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic along with significant changes to the senior leadership of the town’s departments, and the Town Council has complete confidence in her leadership,” the mayor continued.
He said setting a budget is one of the Town Council’s most important functions, and through Ms. Burcham’s leadership, the budget has led to an improved financial position and increased fund balance (reserves).
Collins said Burcham has increased accountability and empowered the various town departments to be responsible for developing and implementing their individual budgets.
“The town has adopted a five-year capital improvement plan, established a rate structure for our water and sewer system that stabilized those critical funds enough to establish reserves, and established individual accounts to better manage grant funds,” Collins added.
“Another critical area for the Town Manager is the supervision of senior staff,” Collins said. “During Ms. Burcham’s tenure, several senior department heads retired or left, including the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief, the Director of Finance, and the Town Clerk. Ms. Burcham has also hired a Human Resources Manager, Economic Development/Planning Manager, and a new Outdoor Facilities Coordinator.
“All of those new hires or promotions have, together with Ms. Burcham, added a renewed sense of urgency to responding to issues in Pulaski,” Collins said.
He stated that Burcham has also overseen revamped personnel policies and pay plan, “including significant raises for all of our hardworking staff members, as well as a pay for performance plan starting this year.”
He also credited Burcham with the modification of space in the municipal building to better align available space with the needs of the staff, including the reopening of the drive-through window in the finance department.
Collins said Burcham had focused on addressing the town’s buildings and infrastructure, restarted the rental inspection program to ensure residents are living in safe housing conditions.
“Ms. Burcham has overseen the starting of the ARS (Acquire, Rehabilitate, Sell) program through the state to provide much needed additional quality housing for first-time home buyers.
“Ms. Burcham prioritized the use of the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds to rehabilitate our water tanks (for the first time ever), overhaul our water filtration plant, and provide additional outdoor recreation spaces such as our new skate park, mountain bike park and soon all new playground equipment,” Collins said.
He added that under her leadership, a new meals tax incentive was adopted to encourage new restaurants to locate in downtown, and “we have multiple construction projects on long-vacant downtown buildings.”
“As Darlene would be the first to say, none of this could be done without the hard work and dedication of all of our town employees. The Town Council and Mayor look forward to working with both Darlene and Town staff to continue this positive momentum including major water and sewer infrastructure projects over the next year,” Collins said.
Burcham was named interim town manager in June 2020 following the resignation of former town manager Shawn Utt.
At the time, the town contracted with The Berkley Group to provide town manager assistance. Burcham left the town manager’s post in Clifton Forge to join Berkley’s Executive Management Team and began working for Pulaski on July 1, 2020.
In December of that year, council voted unanimously to hire Burcham as the town’s next full-time town manager, approving a two-year employment contract with her.
Prior to coming to Pulaski, Burcham held positions in Norfolk as its deputy city manager and as Roanoke’s city manager for ten years prior to moving on to Clifton Forge.