ST. PAULS — After spending more than five years at the helm of St. Pauls code enforcement, municipal services and budget development, Town Administrator Stuart Turille says he and the town have “reached a plateau” — and that leaving his position will help the town “achieve a higher level of development.”
The 50-year-old will be taking the reins as town manager at Topsail Beach. His last day behind the desk of his St. Pauls office will be March 29, five years and six months after he accepted the St. Pauls job on Oct. 1, 2007. Turille said he feels the move will be “positive for both myself, and the town.”
“Financially the town is stable,” he said. “… Everything’s flowing smoothly and in fact, I’m probably too comfortable. … Part of my training as a consultant is to look at what the needs of the community and the board are, and to assess if I can meet those needs, and once I’ve met those needs move on and let someone else take things to a higher level.”
Turille said among the biggest accomplishments for the town under his leadership have been improvements made to the water and sewer infrastructure and storm drainage system, which helped to eliminate flooding throughout the town and downtown, and the completion of Progress Park, the town’s 700-acre industrial park.
“All I did was point us in that direction,” he said. “I worked with the board, I worked with DOT … I worked with our engineer, all I did was facilitate change that was presented to me.”
The change in St. Pauls is what Turille said attracted the attention of Topsail Beach, a community at the southern end of Topsail Island — situated between Jacksonville and Wilmington — with a year-round population of 500 that swells to 7,000 when tourists pour in during the summer. He said his experience with connecting the community to grant money for needed projects, and to the North Carolina Small Towns Economic Prosperity Program, will help him to address the needs of the coastal community.
“A lot of what the beach is dealing with, particularly beach nourishment, is the lack of financial wherewithal to do beach nourishment, development of the beach and protection of the harbors and the coast,” he said. “As for me, I’ve just always had a dream to be a coastal manager, and work on beach nourishment, hurricanes, how you protect the coast, how you develop the coast, and how you protect the natural aspect of it while balancing it out with tourism. … If I don’t do it now, it’s gonna be too late.”
Turille also said that since he arrived in St. Pauls, he has seen the “community spirit” increase, most notably in attendance to Night Out events, which has grown from 50 to 3,000 people. He said the “small-town charm” is what he will miss most about St. Pauls.
“You walk down the street and everyone’s friendly,” he said. “There isn’t the big-city coldness. You can walk everywhere — I can walk from my home to any restaurant.
“I don’t even lock my doors half the time. I feel safe here, I don’t really lack for anything, and if I do, I can just get in my car and go a few miles down the road. It’s quiet, there’s not a lot of traffic. The downtown is vibrant … I play soccer in the evening. I can go run in the field at lunch right by the office.
“It’s kind of the little things that I’ll miss,” he said.
Abbi Overfelt works for Civitas Media as editor of The St. Pauls Review and The Red Springs Citizen.