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A Very Warm Welcome from Catawba County!

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By Rafael Baptista, on June 3, 2014

A Happy Welcome from Catawba County!

Hi Everyone,

My name is Rafael Baptista and I am excited to share with you my journey through the UNC MPA Professional Work Experience this summer. I began working as an intern in the Catawba County Manager’s Office last week.

Catawba For those who have never had the pleasure of spending time in Catawba, the county is located in the western portion of North Carolina. The county population is 154,339 making it one of the 24 urban counties in the state. The county seat is historic Newton and the largest city is Hickory.

What mostly attracted me to Catawba County was its visionary local government management. The County has received over 200 awards for its work over just the past twelve years. Those awards include over 20 straight budget awards from the Government Finance Officers Association and its departments routinely win national awards. Most recently its Social Services department won the prestigious Outstanding Achievement in Local Government Innovation award from the Alliance for Innovation. Also its Immigrant Agriculture Program just won the 2014 ICMA Community Sustainability Program Excellence Award. Catawba’s local government is also known for its re-inventing departments, which provide departments with greater flexibility in spending their money with a focus on outcomes.

While at Catawba County, I will be working on a diverse set of projects with departments ranging from Tax to Human Resources to Budgeting and Parks and Planning among others. When I was offered the internship, I was promised an exciting, challenging, and educational experience that would help develop me as a future local government leader.

One week into the internship, I can say with confidence that those three elements have all emerged as true. In my first week I have started work on a challenging but interesting set of projects, attended Board of Commissioner hearings, and helped built a wilderness trail. I have also gotten the opportunity to spend time with senior managers learning about their experiences and insights in local government.


I have met a tremendous group of passionate public servants who inspire me daily with their dedication to good governance and the citizens of Catawba County. I am excited for the next nine weeks of my internship and sharing some of my experiences with you.

Tags: Catawba County | Categories: Catawba County | 2 Comments
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2 Responses to “A Very Warm Welcome from Catawba County!”

  1. Joseph Beasley

    I look forward to following your experience in Catawba County. If I remember correctly, your internship provides housing for you at Lenoir-Rhyne University? I’d be interested in learning more about ways that the County engages or collaborates with Lenoir-Rhyne.

    • Rafael Baptista

      Yea I share a 3 bedroom house on campus with three interns, all working with private sector firms. The County works really closely with LRU. One really cool partnership is between the county, local cities, private sector, the community college, and LRU called Innovate Catawba. It seeks to transform the struggling economy in Catawba. You can learn more at

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