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WNC Business

It's My Job: Heather Hockaday - Burnsville Town Manager

Dec 28, 2023 10:40AM ● By Randee Brown

Initially contracted by the Town of Burnsville in 2014 as an attorney, Heather Hockaday became a full time administrator in February of 2020. As Burnsville moved from a mayor/council to a council/manager form of government, she became the Town Manager.

As regulations become more complex, it becomes more difficult for people in part-time community advocate roles to keep up with changes, according to Hockaday. Working through legal frameworks can be challenging, and it can be easier to put issues in the hands of a management team that brings decisions to a governing board.

With the overall responsibility of running the Town of Burnsville as an organization, Hockaday is the person to whom various department heads report. She oversees and delegates responsibilities and duties of departmental projects, attends monthly and special meetings, and reports information to the board.

“I spend a lot of time with public works directors, engineers, and grant writers,” Hockaday said. “We discuss plans on anything from big focuses on updating infrastructure like water and sewer systems to reviewing and preparing service contracts for vendors. I also draft a lot of policies and amendments, sit on the boards for economic development and travel and tourism, meet with the County Manager for projects, work with the finance director on compliance, and review zoning changes and amendments. It’s something different every day.”

Hockaday said she enjoys infrastructure projects the most. With many people having no idea how water comes and goes through their tap, she finds it very eye-opening to be a part of Burnsville’s efforts to maintain the town’s systems that were initially installed in 1925.

“It’s exciting to see broken things get fixed and know for years to come the system will work better for the citizens,” Hockaday said. “I grew up here and know many of the town’s business owners. We have a fabulous board and a great mayor, and everyone is working together to achieve the goals that will take the town and the county into the future.”

The challenge with installation of infrastructure is always money, according to Hockaday. These projects cost millions of dollars, which is increasingly challenging when dealing with a very small customer base.

“There’s only so much burden you can put on your end users,” Hockaday said. “A lot of people don’t understand property tax, and ad valorem taxes don’t transfer to water and sewer. Resources are finite, and for small towns, the biggest obstacle is to find the money needed for annual maintenance of systems.” 

The Town of Burnsville also works with public and private funders to obtain financing for these important projects. Hockaday said municipalities have the ability to partner with entities such as local chambers of commerce, the state, or organizations like Dogwood Health Trust that can help the town to achieve major projects while responsibly managing its debt.

Hockaday said the majority of the public has one perception of who does what in local governments, but government work comprises many different fields. While she has worked in legal, administrative, and managerial positions for Burnsville, there are also opportunities in construction, community relations, outreach, recreation, emergency management, and, of course, public works.

“There are many positions in local governments coming open across the state,” Hockaday said. “We’re losing seasoned workers to retirement and to the private sector, and this is a fabulous career choice with competitive wages and benefits that not many people look into. It’s also a great opportunity to really make a difference in someone’s community.”

While her current position as Manager is the top in the town’s employment, she does sit at the pleasure of the board, and is happy to stay and move through changes in board directions or policies as concerns evolve over time.

“I’m very familiar with the local government here, and it’s a good fit for me,” Hockaday said. “My parents are here, my family is here, and my husband and I have our law office here where he practices. I’m very happy with my job and my community, and this is where I hope to stay and finish my career.”

Heather Hockaday is the Town Manager for the Town of Burnsville. Learn more about the Town of Burnsville at