Warren County Board of Social Services Chairwoman Robin Williams, left, presents a commemorative plaque to Ryan Whitson, who retired at the end of December from his position as county DSS director.


Warren County Department of Social Services Director Ryan Whitson retired at the end of 2020 after a career in local governments that spanned 31 years and three months. Emma Perry has served as interim DSS director since Jan. 1.

A native of Green Mountain, Whitson worked in four North Carolina counties over the course of his career: Yancey, Mitchell, Polk and, finally, Warren.

“I am from a small county, and I enjoyed working in small counties,” he said.

Whitson’s work has included 21 years with departments of social services and 10 years as a county manager. He has been a social worker in Yancey County, social work supervisor and program manager in Mitchell County. Whitson has also served as county manager in Mitchell County. Before becoming DSS director in Warren County in 2015, he was county manager in Polk County.

Throughout his career, Whitson especially enjoyed working with children, particularly teenage boys. He worked briefly as a teacher before entering the field of social work. He also served as a mentor as he worked in foster care in Yancey County.

After arriving in Warren County, he described the local DSS director’s position as a welcome return to the social services/social work field after his tenure as a county manager. Whitson viewed his work here as an opportunity to help the community and change people’s lives.

Reflecting on five and a half years of services as Warren County DSS director, Whitson expressed gratitude for his DSS colleagues and for local residents.

“We have an excellent staff, and the people of Warren County are fantastic,” he said.

In retirement, Whitson and his wife, Katherine, have moved from Warrenton to the Whitson family farm in Mitchell County, where they raise beef cattle and hay.

Whitson plans to continue his service in the U.S. Army Reserves, which has spanned more than 35 years.

He enjoys having the opportunity to spend more time with his family, which now includes two grandchildren. Son Kyle remains close to Warren County as a park ranger at Kerr Lake. Daughter Karlie followed in her father’s footsteps and is a social worker in Yancey County.

Whitson is grateful for the opportunity to work as DSS director in Warren County.

“It was a great honor to be director of the department of social services in Warren County,” he said. “I appreciate the (county) board of social services very much.”