Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, review

The Encounter at the National Portrait Gallery-review

The most powerful work in this section, Melvin Edwards’s Curtain (for William and Peter), a screen of dangling barbed-wire with a fringe of chains is rather thrown away by being hung out of sight of the show’s main drag and too close to the wall. If Edwards’s claim that he used the wire simply as “a linear material with kinks”, rather than as a metaphor for, say, social incarceration, isn’t quite believable, there’s a sense in this section of artists with very diverse agendas – that the show can only begin to start exploring – who have had a socio-political role forced upon them by the need to band together as “black artists” simply to get their work seen.

A section on Black Heroes, meanwhile, has been included, you might cynically conclude, to bring in works by “white” artists – Andy Warhol, with a late portrait of Muhammad Ali, and the voguish, but over-rated Alice Neel, with an image of painter Faith Ringgold. If we’re to have Warhol at all, why not his notorious Race Riot images of the early Sixties?

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

How Ed Sullivan Challenged the Racial Divide in America

As a child, Margo Precht Speciale hid the fact that Ed Sullivan was her grandfather.

This slip of information typically led to joking and teasing from her peers who only knew of Sullivan’s stiff TV persona. It wasn’t until the passing of her mother, Elizabeth, the only child of Ed Sullivan, that she became curious about her family history and the man who anchored the longest running primetime variety show in the history of television.

After coming across an article where author Maurice Berger called Sullivan as a civil rights trailblazer, Precht Specialewas determined to learn about this other side of her grandfather.

Image: Ed Sullivan and Margo Precht Speciale Image: Ed Sullivan and Margo Precht Speciale

Ed Sullivan celebrating the 22nd Anniversary of The Ed Sullivan Show with granddaughter Margo Precht Speciale. Precht Family Library

When she eventually met Suzanne Kay, daughter of Diahann Carroll —they were introduced by Ashallah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X— their family histories and shared interests made them fast friends.

They discovered they went to the same elementary school in California and shared a fascination with the early days of television, an era when Speciale’s grandfather and Kay’s mother crossed paths and made history.

“Sullivan gave [artists] that, ‘Go ahead, don’t worry, I’m gonna make you a star,’” says Kay.

According to Kay, her mom attributes much of her success to her 9 appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” “You could build a whole career around the exposure you got on Sullivan,” Kay says her mother would tell her.

Carroll broke barriers in television, starring in “Julia,” one of the first series to depict an African-American woman in a non-stereotypical role.

Precht Speciale and Kay teamed up to produce the upcoming documentary, “Sullivison: Ed Sullivan and the Struggle for Civil Rights.” The film will explore Sullivan’s passion for entertainment and the ways in which he used his platform to acknowledge Black artists during a time when they weren’t completely welcomed in prime time.

It will also explore the impact the show had during the dawn of television at the height of the Civil Rights movement, and the ways in which artists today can use their platforms to drive social justice.

Image: Margo Precht Speciale and Suzanne Kay Image: Margo Precht Speciale and Suzanne Kay

Sullivison producers, L-R Suzanne Kay, Margo Precht Speciale Courtesy of MPS Legacy Productions

“My mother faced discrimination from moment one and I find her to be an incredible example of rising above what other people expect of you,” Kay says of her mother’s legacy.

This exposure was rare in a time where black artists and entertainers were facing discrimination in the entertainment industry, and in society.

The documentary is weaves together interviews from stars like Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Diana Ross, Oprah Winfrey and many more whose careers were launched on the Sullivan show or those grew up watching the show.

Image: Ed Sullivan and Diana Ross Image: Ed Sullivan and Diana Ross

Ed Sullivan sings with Diana Ross. Sofa Entertainment

In one interview, Berry Gordy credits Sullivan with giving him a venue to launch Motown.

Oprah Winfrey describes the impact the show had on her as a young girl. “Imagine me being ten years old and my family on welfare. You don’t understand what it’s like to be in a world where nobody looks like you. When I first saw Diana Ross looking glamorous and beautiful, it represented possibility and hope. It was life changing,” Winfrey says in the documentary.

Born in a racially diverse community in New York City, Precht Speciale says Sullivan never allowed race or religion to affect his appreciation for humanity.

As a newspaper columnist, Sullivan focused on stories that affected the black community. “He took up the cause of the Black team that wasn’t allowed to play in the town, or if he ever saw anything that he felt was injustice towards Blacks he seemed to step in,” says Kay.

THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW featuring musical guest James Brown, October 30, 1966. CBS Photo Archive.

Sullivan’s writing chops led him to author a Broadway column, a gig that was truly right up his alley. “He loved the nightlife, he would be out till all hours, going to the nightclubs and watching different acts, and he became very familiar and fond of vaudeville,” says Precht Speciale.

Sullivan went on to produce the Harlem Cavalcade, in 1942, a vaudeville revue in two acts. The show was billed as a “colored only” production and Sullivan was the only white producer. When the show was failing, Sullivan paid out of his own pocket to keep it going.

His dedication to this art form went beyond the stage, as he formed relationships with black performers that he would later feature on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Image: Harlem Cavalcade Announcement Image: Harlem Cavalcade Announcement

Harlem Cavalcade Announcement Courtesy of MPS Legacy Productions

“When he first started his show they were given very little money, and a lot of the vaudeville stars, Black and white, came to his aide and would come on the show for very little,” said Precht Speciale, adding that when the show reached huge success in the 60’s, Sullivan continued to bring those vaudeville stars on, baffling many. “He knew that just one appearance on his show would pay their rent, and help support their family, and that kind of loyalty continues, which I thought was a wonderful thing to learn.”

Speciale and Kay say that Sullivan’s authentic, “every-man” demeanor skyrocketed him to success. 75 million Americans watched his show every Sunday night. The first episode aired June 20, 1948, and Sullivan’s first black guests were Billy Kenny and the Ink Spots, on June 27, 1948.

Image: Harry Belafonte on the Ed Sullivan show Image: Harry Belafonte on the Ed Sullivan show

Singer Harry Belafonte appears on Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town” TV program in New York, New York on October 11, 1953. CBS Photo Archive

Stars like Diana Ross, Harry Belafonte, James Brown and Kay’s mother, Diahann Carroll graced the screens of millions of American television sets — entering homes and subtly breaking racial barriers.

In an interview with Harry Belafonte, Kay was surprised to learn how much Belafonte credited the show with being a part of the civil rights moment. As Kay tells it, he said it “helped awaken America to a different vision of what black people can be so that when these images came on the screen later of abuse and the beatings as people protested in the South, they had these other images of these very strong, talented, dignified people. And you couldn’t sell them on the idea so easily that black people were subhuman once you had seen these other images on Sullivan.”

Image: Ed Sullivan newspaper article Image: Ed Sullivan newspaper article

Article written by Ed Sullivan in the Detroit Free Press. Courtesy of MPS Legacy Productions

Not everyone was so easily convinced. The show received angry letters from viewers when Sullivan kissed Pearl Bailey, shook hands with Nat King Cole or showed affection towards Sarah Vaughn.

One Alabama advertiser asked newspaper readers to stop watching The Ed Sullivan Show. Ford Motors threatened to pull their sponsorship and remove the Ed Sullivan show from airing in the South.

Southern gas stations even refused to serve car owners who drove Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models that Sullivan promoted.

None of this negativity affected Sullivan. “He really treated those Black performers on his show with the dignity and respect that he would want as a person, and through that he was challenging America to do the same. That’s kind of the bottom line,” says Speciale.

Image: Pearl Bailey and Ed Sullivan Image: Pearl Bailey and Ed Sullivan

Ed Sullivan and Pearl Bailey Sofa Entertainment

A teaser of the film will be screened on Saturday, July 15, at the March on Washington Film Festival followed by a panel discussion with actress/singer Diahann Carroll and filmmakers Margo Precht Speciale and Suzanne Kay. Precht Speciale and Kay are launching a fundraising campaign to complete the documentary. The estimated release date is Spring 2018.

More information can be found at @EdSullivanDoc on Facebook and

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Sofia Coppola Addresses Beguiled African American Backlash

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images

When Sofia Coppola decided to write a screenplay and direct a remake of The Beguiled, critics were quick to point out that she chose not to include an African American character, a slave named Mattie, who was featured in both the 1971 film and Thomas Cullinan’s original book — especially since the setting is in the Confederate South. While Coppola previously explained in an interview with Buzzfeed that it was a conscious decision to focus more on gender dynamics than racial ones, she’s now released a statement to IndieWire to clarify her thought process a little more. “In his 1966 novel, Thomas Cullinan made the choice to include a slave, Mattie, as a side-character. He wrote in his idea of Mattie’s voice, and she is the only one who doesn’t speak proper English — her voice is not even grammatically transcribed,” Coppola said. “I did not want to perpetuate an objectionable stereotype where facts and history supported my choice of setting the story of these white women in complete isolation, after the slaves had escaped. Moreover, I felt that to treat slavery as a side-plot would be insulting.” Coppola continued to explain why she believed including Mattie would’ve been disrespectful:

There are many examples of how slaves have been appropriated and “given a voice” by white artists. Rather than an act of denial, my decision of not including Mattie in the film comes from respect.

Some have said that it is not responsible to make a film set during the Civil War and not deal directly with slavery and feature slave characters. I did not think so in preparing this film, but have been thinking about this and will continue to do so. But it has been disheartening to hear my artistic choices, grounded in historical facts, being characterized as insensitive when my intention was the opposite.

The Beguiled is now in theaters and performing decently at the box office.

For the first time, an African American is named to head the SC Highway Patrol

A 29-year patrol veteran and first African American named to the post was promoted Friday to lead the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Col. Christopher Williamson, a native of Darlington, succeeds retiring commander, Col. Michael Oliver who served 35 years with the highway patrol.

Williamson joined the patrol in 1988, the Department of Public Safety said in a news release.

He was promoted to captain in Troop 7/Orangeburg in 2003 and transferred to Troop Six/Charleston 6 years later. He moved to state headquarters in 2011 where he managed daily operations of the patrol.

Also announced Friday was the promotion of 35-year-veteran Marc Wright, a native of Gaffney, to the post of deputy commander.

Men’s Health: What every man needs to know

Staff Reports / July 15, 2017

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peo clinic logoMany men (and women, for that matter) do not like to go to the doctor or to receive routine health screenings, but maintaining one’s health is critical to ensuring a good quality of life. African American men have the highest risk (compared to men of any other racial/ethnic groups) of developing many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Let’s talk about the important things every African American man should know about his health.

Prevention is Key

Many diseases can be prevented by having good health through:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight by eating a healthy, low fat and low salt diet;
  • Engaging an active lifestyle by doing regular physical activity – a minimum of 20 minutes of moderate physical activity per day and muscle strengthening activities at least 2 days/week;
  • Not smoking/quitting smoking/avoiding secondhand smoke;
  • Having regular well checkups with your healthcare provider; and
  • Encouraging other boys and men in your life, young and old, to live a healthy lifestyle.

Protect Your Heart

Did you know that African Americans die from heart disease at a 30 percent higher rate than Whites? Fortunately, there are many things you can do to lower your risk of heart disease. For one thing, it is critical to maintain your blood pressure at a healthy level, as high blood pressure (hypertension) is a significant contributor to heart disease (as well as stroke and other problems). Hypertension means that your blood pressure is greater or equal to 140/90 mmHg. For adults with diabetes, blood pressure should be below 130/80 mmHg. Pre-hypertension, a risk factor for hypertension, is defined as having a systolic (upper number) blood pressure of 120-139 mmHg or a diastolic (lower number) blood pressure of 80-89 mmHg. Next, keep your cholesterol in check. Manage your diabetes. Finally, maintain a healthy weight: eat a nutritious diet and be active.

Control Your Diabetes

African Americans suffer from diabetes at a higher rate and are more likely than non-minorities to develop its serious and life-threatening complications. If you have diabetes, it is very important to keep your blood sugar under control.

Take Care of Your Emotional Health

More than six million men each year are diagnosed with Depression, a real, treatable medical condition. Symptoms of depression include: Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood, Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness. Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities,.Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down.” Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions, difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping. Appetite and/or weight changes, thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts; restlessness, irritability.

If you have been feeling any of these symptoms that persist, you should talk with your health care provider as soon as possible. Depression can be successfully treated, and the sooner you start treatment, the more likely you will have a positive outcome.

Maintain Your Sexual Health

Did you know that Non-White males are significantly more likely to contract a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI, also called STDs) compared to Whites? The most common STDs among US Men are: HPV, genital herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS, and it is estimated that 19 million new STD diagnoses occur each year. Nearly a quarter, or 25 percent, of new cases occur in adults under the age of 30. Exposure to STIs can have lifelong consequences; increase your risk of many health problems, including certain cancers. STIs can also affect your fertility, and if you pass an STI to your partner (particularly female partners) it can affect their ability to become pregnant and carry a healthy child to term. Avoiding risky sexual behaviors and maintaining your sexual health is essential to maintaining good overall health.

Do you need further information, need resources in your area or have questions or comments about this article? Please call the Maya Angelou Center toll-free at (877) 530-1824 or check out Or, for more information about the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity please visit our Web site:

My path from extremism to redemption: The story of a former white power…

From schoolyard bully to white supremacist, Arno had long lived in the shadow of his inner rage, and already had little patience for fitting in.

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“My entire life I’d been contrarian,” he said. “Whatever I saw in the status quo, I didn’t want to conform.”

To the teenage Arno, escaping the norm in 1980s Wisconsin meant rejecting multiculturalism, even where it clearly worked against his own interests.

Early on, he was listening to hip hop artists like Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash, attending concerts as one of a handful of local white kids interested in the burgeoning art form, and even formed a small break-dancing troupe with some friends.

But as the predominantly black artists gradually made their way into the cultural mainstream, he found freedom, instead, in the raucous chaos of punk.

Above all, punk was a refuge. His dad was an alcoholic, and his parents fought bitterly – so much so that the constant strain of having to find outlets away from family home became traumatic and lonely.

In spite of this, he views his childhood as largely “idyllic” – full of love, and cushioned from the excesses of city life in the quiet western edge of Lake Michigan.

Michaelis in his early days as a punk rocker (Arno Michaelis)

“My family loved me very much,” he said. “More than they loved each other – but a lot of that stemmed from my dad’s alcoholism.

“Them fighting was really the only trauma I experienced as a child.”

Outside observers might not have picked him out for a future extremist: Arno’s family were neither poor nor rich; the violence he witnessed at home was emotional, rather than physical.

And yet it is this emotional trauma that Arno credits as the predominant reason he first entered the skinhead movement.

“To me punk was about smashing stuff, and that combination with the trauma I’d been through was how I interpreted punk and how I was empowered to be a white power skinhead,” he said.

“Trauma is a relative thing and when you’ve been through something that is traumatic, it’s not necessarily apparent to you.

“I was riding this thing about being a power for my people.”

Michaelis as a teenage skin head (Arno Michaelis)

His parents eventually split up when he was 18 (“18 years too late”, as Arno puts it), and his relationship with them both instantly started to improve.

By that time, though, Arno’s interest in racially-driven music had already plunged him into a life of violence and petty crime.

“I just kind of became this ball of hate and violence, and the white power thing gave me a context for it,” he recalled.

“It said the reason why I’m angry, the reason why I’m irate, the reason why I’m violent is because of oppression.”

For Arno, being part of an oppressed white race explained his inner turmoil in a way that other outlets had not.

There were African American societies in college: Why not white societies? Black people had their own Black History Month: What about white history?

“You have to be really ignorant of history to feel that way,” he said, looking back.

“Questioning things like that ignores the fact we’ve had a white-dominant culture for the past 500 years.”

Michaelis said his anger was prompted by a misguided belief he was a victim of racial oppression (Arno Michaelis)

He was now at the heart of a white power organisation he co-founded with acquaintances in the local punk scene, and the lead singer of a white power metal band, Centurion.

He spent his evenings drinking and attacking black and ethnic minority citizens for sport – often beating them so badly he later asked the police to investigate if he’d killed anyone.

And yet Arno wasn’t blind to the many paradoxes that would later hasten his move away from his extreme views.

An avid football fan, Arno ignored the irony of week in, week out watching his team, the Green Bay Packers, whose black and white players fought alongside each other.

And he hid a passion for the hit NBC sitcom, Seinfeld, whose central character, Jerry Seinfeld, was one of America’s best-known and much-loved Jewish comic actors.

“Looking back,” Arno said, “I did have a deep inner knowledge that what I was doing was wrong but there are a lot of similarities between extreme ideologies and addiction.

“When you’re addicted to heroin you know it’s not a good thing, but all you can think of is getting high again.”

Between the age of 14 and 34, Michaelis was “pretty much constantly drunk” (Arno Michaelis)

The feeling wasn’t alien to him. At 14, seven years before he was legally allowed to buy a beer, Arno, like his father, had found solace in drink.

He remained drunk for the next 20 years.

“I finally quit in 2004,” he said, “but up until then I was constantly drinking – and I’m sure that helped to maintain that ideology.”

His exact reasons for getting clean, however, were as complex as his reasons for turning to white supremacy in the first place.

Michaelis recalled the growing exhaustion he felt for his hateful ideology (Arno Michaelis)

One particularly sobering moment clattered onto his doorstep one evening when a younger member of the group turned up at his house chuckling, and carrying a 12 pack of beer.

The youngster, as Arno recalls, looked up to him as an older brother figure in the group, even imitating the way he spoke and looked.

“He had this big grin on his face and he started really laughing,” he said.

“I asked him what was so funny and he told me gleefully how he had seen a Mexican kid in an alley on his way over to me and he had kicked the kid in the stomach and left him writhing on the ground.

“I couldn’t really get past the fact that was a kid, but when I asked him about it, he just said, ‘yeah, but he’ll be an adult some day’.

“You can’t really keep making exceptions – you can’t say, this is the way it is, oh, unless it’s a little kid. So I doubled down on those beliefs, cracked a beer and we listened to white power music together.

“I felt sick by that, but we still went out and attacked people that night.”

This episode, like the small, but insidious embarrassments that came of secretly enjoying mainstream, integrated culture, was to form the basis of a crossroads for Arno’s association with the white power movement.

Michaelis became the sole provider for his daughter at the age of 24 (Arno Michaelis)

“For all the time that I was involved, I had this growing sense of exhaustion in trying to keep those beliefs,” Arno said.

“But what was most exhausting, what was more wearing than anything, was that people who I claimed to hate treated me with kindness: treated me as a human being, even when I was hostile to them.

“I would often run away from them – literally run to try to distance myself from them.”

Whether it was his kindly boss, who was Jewish, or his black and Hispanic colleagues, he simply couldn’t find a way to distance himself with any sincerity.

“They’d say things like: ‘yeah, yeah, we get it. You’re racist. Would you like a sandwich?’ and I’d have spent all my money drinking the night before, so I’d take it and walk to another part of the room.

“I was very good at masking it at the time and acting like it didn’t affect me, but as hard as I tried, it just made me all the more exhausted.”

Being open with his beliefs brought risks.

In a moment of spite, Arno decided to get a tattoo of a swastika on his middle finger – ideally placed for flipping off ethnic minorities in the street.

Arno’s parents would help him gain custody of his young daughter before leaving extremism behind (Arno Michaelis)

The symbol didn’t play so well with a grandmotherly woman of colour serving him in McDonald’s, with whom he had built a rapport over his payday lunch ritual: he desperately tried, and failed, to hide his hands as he paid for the food.

But the major catalysts for change were yet to come.

In 1990, a white teenager Arno helped indoctrinate in the movement was murdered in a street fight after turning to the group for protection against bullies in his predominantly black school.

Four years later, in 1994, a second friend was killed after attending a concert by Arno’s band.

That was also the year he became a single parent for his two-year-old daughter, after her mother left town for Florida.

Arno was broken, lost and exhausted. He was 24 years old.

Two people who had kept their faith in him, however, were his parents.

“They refused to ever give up on me,” he said.

Easter in 1993, a year before Arno left white power extremism for good (Arno Michaelis)

“They were both mortified by what I was doing, but they never said ‘that’s it’.”

They would go on to help him fight for custody of his daughter, hiring lawyers and ensuring their son didn’t lose the most stable – and most important – part of his life from the last few years.

Finally, after the last Centurion gig that ended in another death, Arno knew he wanted out.

He and his bandmates, exhausted as they were, had been talking for some time about moving away from the skinhead movement to focus on creating mainstream music.

“We just wanted to be more of a regular metal band,” Arno said.

“We didn’t have aspirations to be Metallica or anything, we just wanted to play and we were doing just that, and hanging out with other metal bands – some of which had black and Latino members.

“Once we saw outside the box…”

Before white power, Arno was a member of a break dancing crew, and later got into the rave scene (Arno Michaelis)

After eight years living the life of a white power skinhead, Arno Michaelis left the movement for good.

He continued to battle alcoholism for another 10 years, flinging himself into the Wisconsin rave scene with gusto.

He’d turn up at concerts, drinking heavily, with people who asked about his swastikas and foreboding white power tattoos, and proclaimed: “It doesn’t matter where you came from, what matters is who you are now.”

Eventually, the tattoos went too.

“Whenever somebody asks me how painful it was to have them done, I always tell them it’s way, way worse getting them removed,” he said, “Like someone literally burning your skin off with a laser.”

He was getting better, and yet, properly “cleaning the wound” of his past, as Arno calls it, would be more painful than anything he had experienced to that point.

In 2007, finally sober and without the numbing effects of alcohol to blunt his emotions, Arno went through another breakdown of a serious relationship.

Some time after this, he thought of writing a book about his experiences, and he eventually self-published his story: My Life After Hate.

It was 2010. And over the course of the next two years, the book pulled in a small, but influential readership in the world of humanitarian activism.

Arno in his role with Serve 2 Unite (Arno Michaelis)

On August 5 2012, Wade Michael Page, a former US Army psychological operations specialist with a history of alcohol abuse, walked into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and gunned down several members of the congregation, killing six and wounding four others, before turning his gun on himself.

Page was a white supremacist and had been noted as a member of several white power organisations, including holding links to the local Milwaukee skinhead and white power music scene that Arno Michaelis had been instrumental in creating. He was 40 years old, a year younger than Arno.

One of those who died in the massacre was the temple’s president, Satwant Singh Kaleka.

In the weeks that followed, amidst a raging debate on gun violence and a spike in race-related hate crime, Kaleka’s son, Pardeep, contacted Arno, whose autobiography had allowed him to secure the occasional speaking job in schools and colleges, away from his new life in IT.

Their meeting was to form a lasting friendship, and allow Arno to move full time into the world of anti-extremist activism.

Michaelis teamed up with Pardeep Kaleka to form the anti-hate group, Firm 2 Unite (Arno Michaelis)

Today, Pardeep and Arno are co-founders of Serve 2 Unite, an organisation centred around youth mentoring and resistance to hate, in an effort to drive vulnerable kids away from all forms of extremist ideology.

For Arno, this is one of the most important and significant outcomes of his redemption.

“The past 500 years of human existence have been shaped by white supremacy and shaped by racism, and until we as a society own up to that it can never be reconciled and we’re never going to keel over, never going to be able to move forward.

“My story and my personal work is not only about my personal reconciliation, but ours as a society as well.

“And I really believe that if you do it with compassion, and with forgiveness, and with love, they can be successfully done and we can come together as a human species and find a way to move forward.”

You can find out more about Arno’s story at

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Let’s get personnel: How Buncombe County employee salaries compare to state averages

Of Buncombe County’s $431 million budget for the 2018 fiscal year which began July 1, $137 million — nearly a third — is earmarked for salaries and benefits, up $6 million from the previous year.

County tax revenues fuel a wide range of services, from operating a system of libraries and maintaining a landfill to running the Sheriff’s Department. Behind the books, bins, badges and other amenities is a workforce of over 1,400, making Buncombe County one of the largest employers in the region.

County Human Resources Director Curt Euler oversees this crucial area of county operations. Euler weighs in here with statistics that shed light on county employees’ demographics and tenure, what they earn and how their salaries compare with similar counties across the state.

County jobs are good ones for this area: For the 1,442 people the county employed in fiscal year 2017, the average salary (excluding executives) was $51,965. When executives are factored in, the average was $53,425. Based on the county’s estimated population of just over a quarter of a million people in 2016, there was roughly one county employee for every 178 residents. Those workers served in the following categories: public safety, 603; human services, 584; general government, 169; culture and recreation, 63; and economic and physical development, 23.

Pay for what you get

Compared to state averages, Buncombe County’s employees had higher average salaries and longer retention for several key positions, according to information provided by the UNC School of Government for fiscal year 2016. To accurately compare local numbers with the statewide data, all salaries and periods of employment cited here are also from 2016.

The average annual county manager salary in the Tar Heel State was $132,039, while Buncombe County’s salary for the position was $241,791. That’s a big difference, but Euler warns that measuring Buncombe County against state averages is an apples-to-oranges comparison because of disparities in county populations. Salary figures for the state’s larger counties provide a more accurate context for Buncombe’s pay rates, he says. “The bigger the county you have, the more work there is to do; it’s a scale thing,” explains Euler. “A lot of times you’ll notice experienced, qualified people are at bigger counties.”

PAY TO STAY: The above chart shows the averages salaries and length of employment for various county positions across the state. Buncombe County is on the high end of pay and retention, but is also the seventh-largest county in North Carolina.

Euler says he uses the UNC School of Government data when looking at pay grades for various county positions. He also queries human resource directors in comparably sized counties to help determine the market rate.

According to the state’s Budget and Management Office, Buncombe is the seventh-largest county, based on population. Mecklenburg County, North Carolina’s largest county, paid its county manager $298,870. Tyrrell County, the state’s smallest county, paid its county manager $85,000. The lowest reported county manager salary was Perquimans County’s salary of $37,576.

Above are North Carolina's 10 largest counties along with information about how much each pays its County Manager.