After months of controversy, Iredell County leaders are hoping a new animal control director will help move the department forward.
Brad Gates was picked out of 40 applicants to head Iredell County Animal Services and Control. He currently holds the same position in Alexander County, where he's worked for six years.
Since April, the animal control department has been without a permanent leader after former director Chris Royal resigned. Eyewitness News reported in March about an investigation into an anonymous letter sent to commissioners, complaining about the animal shelter. It accused then-director Royal of euthanizing animals that should not have been and selling others for personal benefit.
Royal denied those accusations but stepped down soon after.
On Tuesday, county leaders told Eyewitness News they've found the right person to help turn the department’s image around.
"The new director, Brad Gates, is basically going to be the person in charge, making sure the whole operation functions. Everyone is considering this a fresh start. So one of the things that I have tasked Brad with is improving the reputation of the department," said County Manager Ron Smith.
Smith said finding the right person for the job wasn't easy. He said one of the biggest qualities that set Gates apart was his experience in improving other departments in previous counties where he's worked.
Smith said commissioners consulted both veterinarians and rescue groups before making a hire. He said they also came up with a plan to restructure the department. Instead of having one director doing everything, the department will now have a shelter manager and an operations manager. Those positions will be filled by Gates and will report to him. County leaders said Gates will primarily serve as an administrator.
"Focusing on the budget, public interaction, and big picture types of things are what I'm looking for," said Smith.
Residents said it will take time to restore public trust.
"Any time you have news like that, that's not good, so hopefully this will help. I'm willing to give anyone a chance," said Andy Pierce.