News Classified

Smart Start director has worked throughout the Tarheel state

James Hawley is glad to be home. After moving around the state and advancing in his career, his retirement from a state job has led him back to Wilson County.

Hawley started another career Jan. 5 and is settling in as Wilson County's new Smart Start director.

"I'm learning the ropes and trying to understand all the programs Smart Start is involved with," Hawley said from his Wilson office this week.

"I'm really looking forward to this. It's a great job and a great area to come to."

Hawley has a 10-year history with the Partnership for Children, which administers Smart Start programs in communities across the state.

He was instrumental in starting one of North Carolina's first Smart Start programs in Burke County and served on its board from 1993 to 1997 as chairman, treasurer and secretary.

In Wilson County's search for a new director, Hawley was the top pick of 30 applicants. He will receive an annual salary of $48,000.

He decided to seek the post to be closer to family, most of whom live either in or near Wilson County. Hawley graduated from Rock Ridge High School and graduated with a master's degree in psychology from East Carolina University in 1974.

He remained in the area, working as a school psychologist for Wilson County Schools, until 1977.

He then worked as a staff psychologist with the Rocky Mount Developmental Evaluation Center for seven years. Also during that time, he was on the Wilson County Board of Education, 1982-84.

His career then took him to Morganton, where he remained 16 years and was the director of the Developmental Evaluation Center. Development evaluation centers work with young children with special needs and provide early intervention services.

He finished his career with the Early Intervention Branch of the state Department of Health and Human Services, retiring in November.

Through the years, he has developed an appreciation for Smart Start programs and their effectiveness in the development of children.

"It's just hard to understand how anybody can be opposed to that concept," Hawley said. "Kids do well when they have good day care."

During the past week, Hawley has been studying the policies and procedures of the partnership and its programs, and is working to develop relationships with people involved in Smart Start programs.

"I want these people, when they see me, to see a friend," he said. "I definitely want to see the Partnership do very well and continue to do very well."

He's interested in developing strong relationships with the school system, Health Department, Department of Social Services and Head Start.

Although the Wilson Partnership has been without a director for nine months, Hawley said he's interested in focusing on the future and not the past.

Former Smart Start Director Bruce Tingle was fired by the Partnership board in March for undisclosed reasons. Wilson County Manager Ellis Williford has been interim director.

The Partnership has also undergone other changes. Five of its key employees have either quit or been fired during the past six months.

Hawley is pleased with his staff.