Soil & Water district administrator honored with state award
By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
A Soil and Water Conservation District employee has been recognized for her long-time service to Pitt County and the region.
Carolyn Garris, 52, was awarded the Outstanding Administrative District Employee of the Year by the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts during the organization's annual meeting earlier this month. The association also recognized Garris for her 25 years of service in Pitt County.
Garris is the administrative assistant and environmental educator for the Pitt County office.
The soil and water office carries out comprehensive natural resource conservation programs. The work involves finding solutions for drainage problems, working with potential home and land buyers to assess property for existing or future drainage problems and working with various planning departments to review and comment on site plans and sedimentation and erosion plans.
Garris’ job requires her to manage all correspondence, record and preparing the minutes of the conservation board meetings, assist with the administration of the state’s Agriculture Cost Share Program, manage other office duties and coordinate and implement soil and water conservation education programs for Pitt County Schools and citizens.
“I’ve been there since 1992 and it’s never been a dull moment,” Garris said. “I am always learning and that’s what keeps me excited about the job, I’m always learning.”
County Director P.J. Andrews highlighted the new skills Garris has acquired in the application nominating her for the award.
“Since Pitt County has a performance based budget, Carolyn developed a reporting program titled “Customer Information Reporting System through Google Forms,” Andrews wrote. “She also turned the program into a mobile app.” The app has made the staff’s work easier because they can take notes in the field. Garris, who has no formal training in coding or programming, continues to increase its functionality.
“I love to learn something new and that’s what keeps me excited about the job. There is always a new opportunity,” Garris said. “Most people after they’ve been somewhere a lot time, they lose their enthusiasm. I just don’t.”
Garris used a combination of the search engine Google, videos and tutorials to teach herself how to create the app. She’s now working on how to add a mapping system.
Garris said the process is so interesting she is studying computer information systems at Mount Olive College.
“I want to learn how to do things from absolute scratch. I want to learn how to code and develop a program all on my own,” she said.
When longtime Soil and Water director Bryan Evans retired, and Andrews stepped in first as interim and then full-time director, Garris stepped up and help complete several audits, including one for another county, and strategy plan development.
“I have not been on the management side of soil and water but her years of experience have definitely played a role in the success of all the transitions we have encountered,” Andrews said.
Pitt County isn’t the only community to benefit from Garris’ knowledge. She has traveled to other counties in recent years to train newly hired administrative assistants. She also is treasurer of North Carolina Coastal Envirothon,
A collaboration of soil and water conservation district offices, Envirothon is an environmental science and natural resources competition for middle and high school students. Five-person teams train and test in the areas of aquatics, soils, wildlife, forestry and current environmental issues.
The next event is being held March 20 at the Cool Springs Environmental Education Center outside New Bern.
Contact Ginger Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.