HIGH POINT — The city of High Point will soon lose one of its department heads to retirement.
Customer Service Director Bob Martin said he will call it a career at the end of October after nine years as a member of the city’s executive team and 15 years total with the city.
Martin heads a department with about 60 employees that handles meter reading, billing and collection for city water, sewer and electric customers.
It also operates the municipal call center and collects the High Point Market showroom tax.
Martin started with the city in 2007 as purchasing manager after working for Thomasville Furniture Industries for almost 29 years, mostly in supply chain management.
“I was a furniture manufacturing refugee,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to find a job here with the city, which allowed my daughter to graduate from High Point high schools and allowed me to stay here as my home. So it turned out to be a good fit.”
Martin led the department during a time when the utility customer base grew and the city sought to upgrade technology for its billing and call-center phone systems.
For the latter, the city is in the process of implementing a Microsoft product that will add features for callers like a callback function if they don’t want to stay on hold.
Also in the works is a remote system for reading meters that should be ready for rollout by the second quarter of next year.
This will include new features that can share more utility usage data with customers and help the city better manage power outages.
“To me, this is a transformation,” Martin said.
Some of the more memorable challenges of his tenure were dealing with weather events such as the March 2014 ice storm that knocked out power to about 35,000 of the city’s roughly 40,000 customers, and took several days to fully restore.
Martin recalled that the city received about 6,000 calls the morning after the storm hit.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Michael in October 2018 caused outages on a similar scale on the eve of fall High Point Market.
“It knocked everything out downtown,” he said, but all customers were back on within a few hours.
Another major undertaking was dealing with the impact of the financial hardships posed by the coronavirus pandemic on utility customers.
During a statewide moratorium on utility shut-offs for nonpayment from April through July 2020, about 2,400 city customers accrued about $1.4 million in past-due balances.
“We created six-month payment plans. The great percentage of them were finished by the end of February 2021, and we got everything taken care of by (June 30),” Martin said. “Between our efforts and a lot of help from DSS and agencies like the Community Resource Network, Open Door Ministries and West End Ministries, everybody did a great job in responding to people that needed help.”
Martin is one of 21 city department directors and the third to retire or announce plans to do so in recent months.
Planning and Development Director Lee Burnette retired Aug. 1 and Facilities Services Director Tim McKinney plans to retire by the end of the year.