MOREHEAD CITY — After three-and-a-half years in the position,Carteret County Economic Development Director Don Kirkman is retiring from his post effective Wednesday, June 30.

County Manager Tommy Burns announced the director’s impending retirement during a County Board of Commissioners’ meeting March 15, and county officials issued a release with the information Thursday. Mr. Kirkman also previously served as executive director of the now-defunct Carteret County Economic Development Council from 1990-2000.

“Mr. Kirkman’s leadership with Carteret County Economic Development has helped local companies during the pandemic, assisted local business expansions and positioned Carteret County as a destination for entrepreneurs,” Mr. Burns said in the release. “His work has strengthened community partnerships with a focus on collaborative economic development efforts, and I would like to thank Don for his service.”

Mr. Kirkman was hired in October 2017 to head the county’s then newly created economic development department following a period of contention related to management and oversight of the EDC. Later that year, the EDC Board of Directors voted to dissolve and its function was replaced by the new county department and the nonprofit Economic Development Foundation.

According to the county’s release, during his tenure, Mr. Kirkman has directed initiatives focused on entrepreneurship, job creation, business recruitment and assisting local businesses. He applied for and received a broadband grant to develop a countywide digital inclusion plan, making Carteret County the first rural county in North Carolina and only the second in the nation to have such a plan. The plan is a roadmap to improving broadband adoption.

Mr. Kirkman was also instrumental in earning Carteret County’s designation as a N.C. Certified Retirement Community and in the promotion of the county to new prospective residents and businesses through a WRAL marketing campaign.

In addition, he has been an active member of numerous boards and commissions, including the EDF, the County Transportation Committee, the Highway 70/Interstate 42 Corridor Commission and the Down East Rural Transportation Coordinating Committee.

In the county’s release, Mr. Kirkman said his departure is occurring at a time when the county is facing a “bright economic future.”

“I am grateful to Mr. Burns and the Board of Commissioners for allowing me to serve the residents and business of Carteret County for the last 3 and one-half years. Although the County has faced significant challenges from two hurricanes and a global pandemic, I am very confident that the County is well-positioned for the future,” he said. “It has been a pleasure to serve with such a dedicated group of County employees.”

On behalf of the board of commissioners and business community, County Commissioner Robin Comer wished the outgoing economic development director well.

“I haven’t seen anyone as in tune, out front and on top of economic matters as Don Kirkman,” Mr. Comer said.

Prior to returning to Carteret County in 2017, Mr. Kirkman was executive director of the Hilton Head Economic Development Corporation until it was shuttered in 2016. He also previously served as president and CEO of the Piedmont Triad Regional Economic Development Partnership in Greensboro and president of Florida’s Great Northwest Economic Development Regional Organization.

Carteret County plans to post the economic development director position vacancy on the county website,, next week.


Contact Elise Clouser at; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal/abusive/condescending attacks on other users or goading them. The same applies to trolling, the use of multiple aliases, or just generally being a jerk. Enforcement of this policy is at the sole discretion of the site administrators and repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without warning.