Message from the Executive Director
My name is Anthony W. Starr, and I serve as the WPCOG Executive Director.
The Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) is a voluntary association of local governments organized in 1968 as a nonprofit group to provide long-range planning and technical assistance. Our organization is one of 16 regional councils in North Carolina formed under NC General Statutes 160A 470-478. Local governments eligible for WPCOG membership include Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba Counties located in Western NC and the 24 cities and towns within those counties. Our mission statement is to "serve all local government members with professional, cost effective assistance on a variety of local, regional, state and federal issues and programs."
The WPCOG is organized into seven work groups including: Administration and Finance; Workforce Development; Community and Economic Development; Community and Regional Planning; Regional Housing Authority; Aging; and GIS/Data Center. I supervise the Governmental Administrative Services, Community and Regional Planning, Information GIS/Data Center, and Aging work groups. Community and Economic Development, Workforce Development and Regional Housing Authority work groups are supervised by the Assistant Executive Director, Sherry Long.
I invite you to click on the menu tabs to learn more about our professional staff and the multitude of programs we work with on behalf of our local government members.
Anthony W. Starr, AICP
Anthony W. Starr
Executive Director, WPCOG
The Western Piedmont Council of Governments shall serve all local government members in Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba Counties with professional, cost-effective assistance on a variety of local, regional, state and federal issues and programs.
Promote cooperative and joint efforts in solving regional problems;
Provide an expert resource for information and in-the-field assistance in planning for a broad mix of local government services;
Help promote the full economic development potential of the region;
Help establish and meet regional development goals;
Develop and implement policy recommendations concerning local government matters having regional significance;
Represent the interests and needs of WPCOG member governments to state and federal agencies;
Be the umbrella agency for all policy and administrative coordination for area-wide multi-jurisdictional problems and agencies;
Retain enough flexibility in staff time and organizational structure to be able to respond to unforeseen local or regional needs;
Identify and respond to potential local or regional threats or opportunities; and
Be efficient with staff time and resources available to the WPCOG.
The WPCOG shall strive to promote harmony and cooperation among its members. It shall seek to deal with urban and rural problems in a manner which is mutually satisfactory and shall respect the autonomy of all local governments within the region.
Regionalism is defined as "the principle or system of dividing a city, state, etc., into separate administrative regions." Early interest in regionalism in North Carolina occurred as a result of research conducted in 1967 by Dr. David H. Shelton, Professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His research revealed four distinct urban areas in North Carolina, including:
Metrolina, surrounding Charlotte
The Golden Triad Cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point
The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area
The collective area including the counties of Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba
Legislation enacted by the 1969 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly authorized any two or more municipalities and counties to create a regional council of governments. In June 1970, then Governor Robert Scott, by Executive Order, divided North Carolina's 100 counties into 17 planning regions. The Western Piedmont Council of Governments petitioned the Governor to keep their four counties intact. The request was granted and Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba Counties were reorganized as North Carolina Multi-County Planning Region E.
R. Douglas Taylor was selected as the organization's first full-time Executive Director, a position he held until retirement in 2008. H. DeWitt Blackwell, Jr., was chosen to succeed him, and served as Executive Director until his retirement on December 31, 2014. Anthony Starr is the current Executive Director.
Shelton felt the counties of Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba were bound together economically by furniture and textiles, geographically by the Catawba River, and by a network of major highways.
In late 1967, the Western Urban Complex Commission was formed by five chambers of commerce and local governments in the area. This group spearheaded the drive to create the Western Piedmont Council of Governments. In November 1968, several cities and counties passed resolutions creating the organization. Charter members included Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba Counties and the cities and towns of Conover, Granite Falls, Hickory, Hudson, Lenoir, Long View, Morganton, Rhodhiss and Valdese. Rhodhiss Commissioner J. Arch Laney was elected as the organization's first chairman.
The Greater Hickory Metro region is situated in the Midwestern area of North Carolina and includes the counties of Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba and 24 municipalities. The region boasts the State’s maximum vertical relief of approximately one mile (from 6,000 ft. at Calloway Peak in the northwest to 760 ft. on the Catawba River at Lake Norman in the Southeast). The region contains prominent peaks, rolling foothills and reaches into the Carolina Piedmont. The Greater Hickory Metro is bordered by four beautiful Catawba River lakes and is a short drive to the quiet, majestic Blue Ridge Mountains or to Charlotte, the State's largest city. The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton MSA is home to more than 365,000 residents. Catawba County is the largest county in the region in terms of population (157,034), while Hickory is the region’s largest municipality (41,305). Close behind are Morganton (17,097) and Lenoir (18,461).
The area is connected by Highway 321 and Interstate 40 and is rich in historic and cultural sites, museums, shops, handmade crafts, golf, festivals and a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities. Portions of the Pisgah National Forest, Lake James State Park and South Mountain State Park are located in the region. The Hickory Crawdads is a minor league baseball team based in Hickory. A Class A team in the South Atlantic League, the Crawdads have been a farm team of the Texas Rangers since 2009. The Crawdads play home games at L. P. Frans Stadium, which opened in 1993 and provides seating for 5,092 fans.
Nationally renowned for its furniture roots, the area boasts the best furniture shopping in western NC with over 1.5 million square feet of furniture shopping space. The area is also known for making alkaline glazed stoneware. The tradition began in the early 1800's using clay from the Catawba River to fashion canning and food and drink storage containers for farmers. A Data Center Corridor is also present in the region and stretches along Highway 321 from the Apple facility in Maiden north to the Google facility in Lenoir.
The Greater Hickory Metro has an array of cultural amenities including art galleries, national and regional on-stage shows, music and theatre. The area is proud of its Catawba Science Center (CSC). The center's permanent exhibit areas explore Physical, Natural and Earth sciences, while interactive traveling exhibits rotate throughout the year. Freshwater and saltwater aquarium exhibits – featuring North Carolina’s only marine touch pool with live sharks and stingrays -- offer exciting hands-on learning experiences.
The Greater Hickory Metro is home to Lenoir-Rhyne University, which U.S. News and World Report ranked among the top ten "Best Values" in the region. Founded in 1891, Lenoir-Rhyne has 1,900 students and boasts a student/faculty ratio of 12:1. The university is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) but is open to people from all religious backgrounds. Appalachian State University has Centers at four locations in the Greater Hickory Metro. While each site offers a variety of academic programming, the ASU Centers offer selected undergraduate programs on a full-time, day-time basis (8-5, M-F). The area is also home to three community colleges, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, Western Piedmont Community College, and Catawba Valley Community College.