Yadkin County native Hiram Poplin is getting a first-hand look at the workings of the county’s government this summer as part of an internship he is doing with the Yadkin County manager’s office.
Poplin will begin his senior year at Appalachian State University next fall, where he is majoring in history. He is looking at furthering his education after that and potential career opportunities in the public sector.
“I’m considering getting a master’s degree from Appalachian State in public administration so I figured the best way to find out if that was something I really wanted to do was to try and get an internship to try it out for a few months and see what I thought,” Poplin explained.
This is the first time in recent years that the county has had an intern and County Manager Aaron Church said that Poplin has been a great asset to the office.
“Having an intern that is bright and interested in public service has been beneficial to Yadkin County,” Church said.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Kevin Austin also is impressed with the work being done this summer by Poplin.
“We are pleased at his enthusiasm for the work and his capabilities,” Austin said.
One thing that was surprising to Poplin, he said, was the close working relationship between all the departments that make up the Yadkin County government.
“Before I started in college, whenever I thought about government, I always thought it was a bunch of bureaucrats that sit in offices and don’t really understand what they’re trying do. They don’t really connect with the people, but since I’ve been here I really don’t think that’s case.
“The community of the government itself is very tight knit. They are cooperating with each other, very highly integrated. The government system for the county works very well and it’s very efficient. For the amount of manpower they have and the resources they have, I think they do a fantastic job providing services for the county. I’m really glad I got to see what I’ve seen,” said Poplin.
So far, he has had a chance to spend time with each department head in the county government and he said he has learned a lot about the variety of tasks for which each department is responsible.
“I got to see so many different jobs and do so many different things,” he said. ‘That was really great because it was a different thing every day. From a management perspective, it’s very important to realize that everyone in county government doesn’t do the same thing. They’re very specialized.”
Being able to work closely with area residents is something that Poplin said he has enjoyed while visiting the different departments such as animal control, building inspections and environmental health.
“You get to go out into the field and deal with the public on their property and it is something different every day, which is nice,” he said.
He also has enjoyed working directly with the county manager and said that it is something he could definitely see himself doing as a career in the future.
“I really do like the personal aspect of the manager’s job. He does have to deal with people face to face or on the phone and I think I’m a pretty good people person so I think that would be something I would enjoy doing a lot. I like helping solve people’s problems.”
Poplin’s internship is part of a scholarship through the Golden LEAF Foundation. In addition to completing some leadership training, the scholarship also is providing a stipend for his work during his internship with the county.
“[The Golden LEAF Foundation] wants people from rural counties to get an internship in that county and try to find a career so that they can stay here rather than be a part of the brain drain and head off into the cities,” Poplin said. “That is what I wanted to do anyway so this internship is really just helping push me in that direction. I don’t think I’d ever want to leave this area.”
Austin is thrilled that young people like Poplin are considering staying in the area after college and continuing to be a part of Yadkin County.
“I hope this will encourage other young people in Yadkin County to look for opportunities right here at home,” Austin said.
Though he is enjoying his time in school in Boone at Appalachian, Poplin said that the town just doesn’t have the same feel as back home.
“I really want to stay in Yadkin County,” he said. “I love it here. I have pretty deep roots here. I think there are a couple of things that go together to make it what it is, I think a large part of that is agriculture. Coming from a farming family, I think when you just drive down the road out here with fields on both sides, it doesn’t feel like it does in a highly developed area. I think that keeps us all down to earth.”
Once he finishes his bachelor’s degree, Poplin said he hopes to find a job somewhere local and work through an Appalachian cohort program in Winston-Salem to complete the two-year degree in public administration.
“I could get some experience maybe in the public sector and just start at the bottom while I’m still continuing my education,” he said. Poplin said his experiences so far in this internship have really given him a lot of insight into his future career options and it’s something area students should consider.
“I would encourage anyone that’s thinking about doing an internship or that is in college and is thinking about staying around here to find an internship. Internships are great. You can’t always get a paid one, but it will save you so much time and money if you find out whether or not you want to do something before you pay to get a degree to do it.”
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.