ABOVE: Troutman ABC Board Chairman Layton Getsinger and his wife Jane.
Town to honor Layton Getsinger as Citizen of the Year
Troutman officials participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the town's new ABC store last fall.
BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Town Council will honor Layton Getsinger as Citizen of the Year on Thursday, as an expression of the town’s gratitude for the hundreds of hours he has served on various boards as well as the wise counsel he has provided to town officials.
Former Mayor Ron Wyatt praised Getsinger’s work in making the town’s new ABC store a reality. “Layton was very keen at understanding from the start there was dissension with respect to what town leaders wanted," Wyatt explained. "He began to work and immediately proved that store ownership was far more practical (than renting a space) and gave the best return to the town dollars-wise.”
Getsinger’s unique background aided in bringing the ABC store project to fruition, he said.
“Layton was able to assign certain tasks to ABC board members’ strengths. That is when I quickly realized his military career had definitely prepared him for this leadership role. The building was completed and opened on December 1 because of Layton’s ‘Don’t tell me no, tell me the solution’ drive. I might add the store also came in under budget,” added Wyatt.
Town Manager Justin Longino said Getsinger has proven to be an asset to the town.
“He’s always willing to help wherever needed, puts in countless hours of dedicated work to various boards and committees for the town, and always gives constructive feedback when warranted,” Longino said. “I admire his ability to work efficiently and to always lead the charge on whatever he throws himself into.”
ABC Board member Jeff Hall said that Getsinger “pours his heart into everything he does. If people knew what he had done to help them on these boards, they would be amazed. The town could not afford to pay him for the leadership and business skills he has given.”
In their nomination of Getsinger, council members Judy Jablonski and Paul Henkel said that Getsinger “used his patience and tact to resolve conflicts and used his leadership skills during times of challenging situations.”
Council member Paul Bryant also nominated Getsinger, saying he is “a model resident and volunteer deserving of this award.”
Born in Plymouth, N.C., Getsinger moved to Goldsboro at age 1 for the rest of his formative years. The town’s Air Force base, which reopened in 1957, sparked his interest in aviation.
“I was always intrigued by airplanes,” said Getsinger. “I always wanted to do one of two things - be a garbage man or fireman just because I thought it was so cool to be able to hang off the back of a truck and ride down the street - those were my goals as a child. When the base was re-activated, I added a third item on my wish list, and that was to be a pilot.”
The Vietnam War broke out while Getsinger was in high school and continued through his college years at East Carolina University, from which he graduated in 1969. “I thought by the time I finished college, the war would be over, but by my junior year, I knew I would be drafted by the Army or the Marines, so I started looking at my options as an aviator.”
Several fraternity brothers at ECU had become Naval officers and introduced Getsinger to the recruiter, leading him to Naval Aviation School, which was much like the movie An Officer and a Gentlemen, said Getsinger.
Getsinger was commissioned as an ensign and went on to serve on active duty for 20 years, traveling the world on an aircraft carrier wherever dangers were. “I always said the best two duty stations that I had were the one I was just leaving and the one I was about to go to.”
Getsinger rose to the rank of lieutenant commander and was due for a promotion to commander, but he chose to retire instead. “My kids were 8 and 10, and I felt like they needed me at home because I had been gone for most of their lives.”
Getsinger credits his military career for giving him the skills and values that have helped him be successful in many areas of his life, including “the sense of team, subordinating personal goals for the team, having your buddy’s back, doing everything with a sense of urgency, getting it right the first time, and doing things with a sense of purpose and laser-like precision.”
“In aviation you don’t get a do-over. In some cases a lot of what you do can be literally life or death, just based on lack of attention to detail,” added Getsinger. “In anything, money is always an issue, so you have to do things ahead of schedule, below budget, and beyond expectations.”
After his military career, Getsinger returned to his alma mater ECU for 10 years to serve as Associate Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance and was responsible for the business operations of the university. “My boss was the Chief Financial Officer. He handled the financial piece, and I handled the operational side.”
Getsinger immediately put his creativity and skills to work in this new setting. He revamped the student store, which had operated at a loss for years with high personnel costs, and soon generated over $3 million in profit that he returned to the students in the form of scholarships. He also created book loan scholarships for faculty and staff so they could take one course per semester at no cost to encourage employees’ life-long learning.
Getsinger also created non-revenue sports scholarships by increasing the school’s vending machine profits. He created a competitive sole source pouring contract, with Pepsi eventually winning, which resulted in Pepsi making a $13.1 million scholarship donation to ECU.
Getsinger also used creative financing to get a state-of-the-art video scoreboard for the football stadium. He lent $2 million to the Pirate Club to build the scoreboard and then leased it to them at $1 per year. As a non-state entity, the club could sell advertising on the scoreboard, repaid the $2 million over 10 years, and the stadium got a “free” scoreboard.
“It was creative financing within a state agency that no one had ever done before,” said Getsinger. His cost-per-copy contract, which eliminated costly copier maintenance contracts and supply costs, brought all new machines to the campus, complete with five on-site technicians and a two-hour repair response time, all at a cost of 5 cents per copy. “This saved the state millions and increased efficiency.”
Getsinger left ECU in late 1999 to become Chief Operating Officer of the Copy Pro company for eight years before finally retiring. He took the company’s value from $13 million to $23 million during his tenure.
EARLY CIVIC INTERESTS
Even while in a demanding Naval aviation career, Getsinger still found time to serve his community, coaching youth league baseball and basketball. After leaving the military and returning to Greenville, he became even more active, becoming an officer in Rotary Club and serving on the Board of Directors. He was also the Golf Course Committee Chairman for the Michael Jordan Celebrity Golf Classic.
The tournament started after Jordan’s first year with the Chicago Bulls and continued for 13 years, with Jordan and a slew of sporting, TV, and movie stars playing and raising $4 million over the years for Ronald McDonald Houses in North Carolina.
ARRIVAL IN TROUTMAN
In 2005, marriage to a decades-old friend with whom he reconnected, Jane Jennings, brought Getsinger to Troutman. The two commuted the first two years of their marriage between Troutman and Greenville as Getsinger settled his business affairs, until the pair finally settled in here in 2007.
Getsinger credits much of his success to Jane, whom he describes as his “partner who shares everything with me. She willingly allows me the freedom to spend the hours needed to make a difference elsewhere.”
Getsinger lives the cliche that “behind every successful man is an excellent woman. No leader has gotten to be great alone. It’s because they had a group of people around them who bought into the vision and became the vision-keepers who shared that vision and took ownership of it.”
Though officially retired, Getsinger stayed busy maintaining six of the 22 acres of their property. The Getsingers also became lavender farmers three years ago after reading an article about it and visiting a French-born farmer’s lavender farm in N.C.
They cut the flowers just before budding and place them in bundles to sell fresh or to hang in the barn until dry. They hung 200 bunches this past fall and shredded the buds off some for sachets. They sell some through a local store or give them away to friends and invest any money they make into buying more lavender plants.
Getsinger also treasures his time with son Sean and daughter Connie from his first marriage. He also enjoys close relationships with step-children Michael and Abigail (and the late David Jennings, his godson), all of whom he has known since they were born.
“I also have a precious grandson and two precious step-granddaughters,” said Getsinger.
These family connections are important to Getsinger, leading him to the Carolina coast once a month to visit with his two brothers, children, and grandchildren.
LOCAL COMMUNITY SERVICE
Throwing himself into civic life in Iredell County, Getsinger joined the Statesville Rotary, becoming an officer and webmaster for the group. He also served on Trinity Episcopal Church’s vestry committee and the Executive Committee of the Piedmont Boy Scouts.
Getsinger additionally volunteered on Iredell Museums board, rising to President, and also served on the United Way on the Community Re-allocation Committee and in several roles with the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina.
In 2010, Troutman Town Council member Amanda Wiser approached Getsinger about serving on the Planning and Zoning Board, of which he became chairman in December of 2013. “Living in Troutman, I wanted to get more involved here,” said Getsinger, who also served on the now-defunct Technical Review Committee for a year.
Council member Paul Henkel later approached Getsinger about joining the newly forming ABC Board in late 2015, and he was chosen as chair when the group began meeting in early 2016. When the board began its work in earnest in March, the board set an ambitious goal of opening Troutman’s first ABC Store on Dec. 1.
Many told Getsinger that the goal was impossible, but with the support and talents of board members Jeff Hall, Steve Cash, Wes Edmiston and Bill Stamey, Getsinger successfully led the group through the bumps of creating a business plan and long- and short-range budgets, as well as through the bidding and construction processes, various government regulatory obstacles, and store design decisions to open the facility on time.
“I met with the CPA today and he was very pleased with how well we are doing compared what we originally budgeted to do,” said Getsinger of the store, which is now projected to be profitable in two years rather than the three the long range business plan originally predicted.
These profits go back to help community entities, including the town coffers, the J. Hoyt Hayes Troutman Library, ESC Park, and Troutman Elementary and Middle Schools, as well as CATS and South Iredell High School.
Getsinger sees Troutman’s recent growth as an asset but wants to make sure the town manages it wisely.
“Being able to have a vision, create a sense of urgency, and have a laser-like focus on what needs to be done - my concern is that if we don’t hurry up and jump out in front of this development that it’s going to happen and we are going to follow it rather than lead it,” said Getsinger. “I feel like we have still the opportunity to do that.”
Using his military logistical background and his ECU experiences, Getsinger is consulting with town officials to help them devise a comprehensive town master plan.
“We need to plan for what’s going to happen in 10 years, what’s going to happen in five years, three years, and this year. What are the strategies for excellence? What are the processes that we need to make sure fall into place?” said Getsinger. “This type of planning controls budgeting and takes away the ad hoc purchase of ‘let’s buy a new dump truck or tractor’ if it’s not in the budget and projected growth plan. We would have an attrition plan to replace vehicles in a controlled way.”
In terms of growth, Getsinger wants to be protective of Troutman’s uniqueness, using smart growth much like Davidson, which preserved its culture while expanding. “We need growth with a purpose.”
“We have to come together and decide what the character of this town is, what we want to preserve and honor. Also, within the ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction) areas, there is a lot of charm that we don’t need to destroy in the process of getting new rooftops to pay for waterlines run before the recession.”
“I want to make sure that we get enough people in the community involved - the stakeholders -so that everybody has a chance to weigh in. Growth is going to happen; that’s not an option. But how do we want it to happen? We should all have a voice and make sure that our quality of life is preserved,” said Getsinger.
Getsinger is also concerned about some of the blighted areas within the town. He hopes the town will work with owners of unoccupied stores and residences to create a plan to bring the properties up to standards or tear them down within a reasonable time frame. “It is really impacting the town. That’s the first impression that people get.”