Western Piedmont Community College’s president has announced his intentions to retire, but he’ll serve one more year on the job before stepping away.

At the WPCC Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday evening, Dr. Michael Helmick informed that board of his plans to retire. Afterward, Helmick sent an email memo to all of the college’s staff and faculty informing them that his notice of retirement would be effective on June 30, 2020.

“At (Tuesday) afternoon’s WPCC Trustee meeting, I submitted my notice of retirement as president of Western Piedmont Community College to be effective June 30, 2020,” he said in the email. “I have enjoyed my time at WPCC and though I look forward to retirement in a year, I know I will miss WPCC once I am gone, and I will miss the daily interaction with all of you, especially once my last day at the college has come and gone.

“The process of selecting a president is a lengthy one and it will take the full year to complete that process. Many of you will be called upon to take part in the selection of the next president for this institution and I hope you will participate in this exercise — there are few things more important than selecting the president of a college and your help is essential in selecting the best person for the job.”

Helmick has served in the role of WPCC president for the past five years since taking over for longtime president Dr. Jim Burnett. He previously had been a vice president at WPCC before taking the top job at Rockingham Community College in Reidsville.

Helmick told The News Herald that multiple different things helped him know the time was right to make his decision.

“There are several factors that got into that,” he said. “One is that I’m 67 now and will be 68. I have over 10 years’ experience in the North Carolina system, over 20 years in community colleges and over 30 years in education generally. You get to that age, it’s a good time to retire.

“I had been thinking about it for a couple years, as most people in their 60s do. The college had gotten to the point where I was comfortable moving on, and where our budget is stabilized for the first time since I have been here — the first time in many years. And our enrollment, for the first time in 10 to 12 years, has finally started going up.”

He has experience in many different parts of the world, spending periods of his childhood in Japan and Germany as part of a military family before living in central Florida and living and teaching in various places in North Carolina and Tennessee.

Helmick has taught technology, industrial arts, vocational programs and other programs from second through eighth grades and in high school, community college and university settings. He also owned his own business for 11 years.

For now, his focus is on accomplishing more in his final year at the helm at WPCC.

“We still have a year together and in that year, I expect the college to move forward and to become even more vital to the community,” Helmick added in his email to WPCC staff. “There is now and will continue to be a lot of work required to serve our students the best way. Thank you all for your continued support.”

The current WPCC Board of Trustees includes Bill Lennon (chairman), Scott Mulwee (vice chairman, Kimberly Kling (secretary), Jonathan Mercer, Dr. Dan DeHart, Amy Kincaid, C. Malone McNeely, Lamar Smitherman, Rod Harrelson, Bruce Hawkins, Tea Yang and Ronnie Thompson.

“Superior leadership and strong administrative knowledge and skills are hallmarks of Dr. Michael Helmick's nearly 10 years of contributions to WPCC and, indeed, to the greater N.C. Community College system,” Lennon said in a press release. “He has been the right college leader at the right time these last five years for WPCC and Burke County.

“Dr. Helmick has led the college in collaborations with Burke Development Inc., the Chamber of Commerce, city and town governments, the Burke Commissioners and the Burke County Public Schools. Speaking for the Board of Trustees, I would like to thank him for his service and we look forward to working with him for this next year as he prepares to transition into a well-deserved retirement in 2020.”

Lennon added that the hiring process for a new president is very time-consuming, requiring a number of approvals and input at the local and state level. Generally, this process will take about a year to complete, he said.

“We anticipate having a new president on board by July 1, 2020, in time for him or her to get acclimated before the 2020-21 school year starts,” Lennon said in the release. “Work on this process will commence with a called trustee meeting in July.”

Justin Epley can be reached at jepley@morganton.com or 828-432-8943.

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