Ruffin’s leadership will be missed
Mike Ruffin, whose last day as Durham county manager was Friday, has navigated the sometimes thorny paths of politics here deftly for 14 years. Putting that into context, most managers only last three to four years.
In those 14 years, Ruffin successfully led the county through the economic downturn, keeping it fiscally on course. His touch was integral in negotiations to bring the Merck plant in the Treyburn Office Park and Quintiles to just off Interstate 40 in south Durham.
He was key in construction of the Durham Performing Arts Center.
He’s been a highly regarded leader in the community. As illustrated with his return from a temporary forced departure in 2004 after a falling out with a county commissioner, Ruffin commands a high level of regard and is able to build and rebuild relationships.
Joe Bowser, who served on the commissioners in 2004 and was the force behind Ruffin’s temporary departure, worked well with Ruffin in their second go-round and told Herald-Sun reporter Ray Gronberg earlier this week: “I don’t think you’ll find anybody any better at managing a local government.”
We also haven’t always agreed with our county manager, but we have always found his arguments thoughtful and his concern for the community deep. He is known to be a straight-shooter and careful with taxpayer dollars. His dealings with the school system, for instance, at times have been contentious over funding issues, but neither the schools nor the taxpayers came out on the losing end of the negotiations when all was said and done. Ruffin worked with Durham Public Schools to ensure the schools received the necessary funds, if not all the funds it sought.
Throughout his tenure, Ruffin has maintained support from a variety of quarters, even when others disagreed with him on specific issues. Tom Miller, a leader of the People’s Alliance PAC, described Ruffin as “a very wise man.” David Smith, of the more conservative Friends of Durham PAC, said: “He’s been very fiscally responsible, which is one of our main concerns.”
As Ruffin enters retirement, and leaves behind Durham to care for aging in-laws in the Charlotte area, he has left behind a legacy that will be challenging for the next manager to live up to (and a tough decision that commissioners are now contending with in who the right person will be to fill his seat).
Ruffin’s steady hand at the helm in Durham County will be sorely missed.