MONROE – Waxhaw resident Mark Watson will succeed Cynthia Coto as county manager, beginning Jan. 1, 2019.
County commissioners approved the promotion Dec. 17. Chairman Richard Helms said the county worked with the recruiting firm of Ralph Andersen & Associates to help with the search and interviews.
“It was probably the toughest decision that I ever had to make because we had three outstanding candidates,” Helms said. “Any one of them could have stepped in and done the job. We felt Mark was the right one for today.”
Watson has served as the county’s chief human resources officer for 24 years. Watson told commissioners he was very excited about the opportunity and thanked them for their vote of confidence in him. He described the selection process as exciting. He also credited some of his longtime colleagues for preparing him for the role, whether they realize it or not.
“I look forward to a smooth transition of administration and the opportunity to serve the board, the employees and the residents of our county,” Watson said.
Coto, who served as county manager since 2010, subtly announced plans to retire at the end of the year during a June board meeting. WFAE reported Coto retired last month, opting to take an extended leave of absence.
“Due to circumstances, Ms. Coto was not able to be with us the last month, but I would certainly say how much a pleasure it was for me to work with her,” Commissioner Jerry Simpson said. “I think the people that she hired to work with her and work here in Union County certainly has propelled us forward.”
Assistant County Manager Michelle Lancaster has been filling in for Coto at county commission meetings. Lancaster said she looks forward to the transition and continuing to work with Watson.
“There’s one thing you can say about Mark Watson, he’s got passion for Union County,” Simpson said. “You don’t believe me, catch him with five minutes of extra time. He’ll give you a tour.”
Outside of Union County, Watson is known for being one of North Carolina’s early adopters of Direct Primary Care. The John Locke Foundation recognized him in 2016 for saving the county $1.28 million in health care claims with the option.
“He has institutional knowledge that will be valuable and also new ideas that will bring a unique perspective to the role of county manager,” Helms said. “I look forward to our board working alongside him in this new role and supporting him as our organization and community continue to evolve.”
Watson has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Winthrop University. Prior to joining Union County, Watson served in human resources roles with Hecht’s. He and his wife, Jewel, have three children and two grandchildren.