Carteret County’s economy is directly tied to its geography and particularly its beaches, so it was disappointing to learn Monday that Gregory ‘Rudi’ Rudolph, the county’s Shore Protection Officer announced his resignation. Over the past 20 years Rudi has more than proved his value for the county’s economy by maintaining and improving the Bogue Banks beaches, the county’s primary tourist investment. At the same time he has navigated a myriad of arcane and constantly changing environmental regulations while saving Carteret County taxpayers millions in tax dollars by utilizing federal grants for beach nourishment.
When Mr. Rudolph was introduced to the county as the county’s first ever Shore Protection Manager he politely and humbly accepted the questioning glances of just what exactly would his job entail. He even had to put up with humorous observations that he might be acting as a police officer to assure that no one was absconding with too much sand in their shoes or bathing suits, thereby depleting our valuable sand.
The position was created after Bogue Banks town mayors and business owners became concerned with erosion of the beaches resulting from a series of hurricanes beginning with Hurricane Bertha on July 12, 1996. By 1999 the erosion was so persistent and significant that a beach preservation task force was created, which began lobbying to help fund beach maintenance with a portion of the county’s tourism tax revenues.
In 2001 a legislative act created the county’s beach commission, the only one of its kind in the state, with initial funding to come from half of the county’s 6% occupancy tax on rental accommodations. Shortly thereafter Mr. Rudolph was hired as executive director or manager.
Mr. Rudolph’s job description, for all intents and purposes, didn’t exist. It was a ‘yet to be described’ job that involved maintaining a natural area, Bogue Banks beaches, which were of course subject to the vagaries of nature. “I’m not sure the beach commission or the county quite knew what exactly a Shore Protection Manager was supposed to do, and to be honest I wasn’t quite sure what a Shore Protection Manager was supposed to do either,” Mr. Rudolph told News-Times reporter Brad Rich.
But lack of experience on the part of the commission and the manager meant that the project was open ended, allowing Mr. Rudolph to experiment and push outward with little to no restraints.
Twenty years later the results are visible on Bogue Banks beaches from end to end. Over 20 million cubic yards of sand have been deposited along the beach front, at a cost of nearly $223 million coming from local, state and federal funds. This year alone, 1.1 million cubic yards have nourished the beach from Fort Macon to the middle of Atlantic Beach.
There are other metrics that are hard to quantify but which also accrue to his record. Because of his diligence he found numerous federal funding sources that defrayed millions of dollars in local funds that would otherwise have been required to cover nourishment projects. All the while he oversaw and managed the maintenance of the county’s number one tourist attraction- its beaches - thereby securing the success of the vast majority of the county’s private businesses and jobs.
Over the past two decades Mr. Rudolph has practically earned a doctorate in beach maintenance and environmental negotiations. Not only has he had to navigate the complications associated with the mechanics of dredging and beach nourishment, he has also had to deal with a variety of state and federal agencies such as the National Marine Fisheries over concerns related to turtles, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife regarding bird nests that might be interrupted by sand deposition along the beaches.
His expertise as a geologist and his wizardry at understanding arcane and technical environmental regulations, along with the ability to ferret out government funding requirements, meant that Mr. Rudolph has been in high demand in other areas of the county and even the state.
Locally he has played critical roles in negotiating the maintenance of inland waterways such as dredging underway in Beaufort’s Taylor Creek and the maintenance of local commercial harbors such as Atlantic Harbor. Other coastal communities both in and outside the state have called Mr. Rudolph for advice and in some cases attempted to hire him away from his Carteret County job.
Fortunately, his love for the area along with unquestionable support from the county’s beach commission, have been incentive enough to keep Mr. Rudolph as the county’s beach manager despite some significant offers. But that has now come to an end and the county is forced to find his replacement, a task that won’t be easy.
As noted, Mr. Rudolph created his own position which he has done with unparalleled success. He has set a high bar and in the process created a position that has the respect of the county and the region. Whatever his next adventure is and wherever it takes him, he needs to know that this beach community is appreciative of his success and wishes him pleasant breezes and sandy feet.