County’s human resources director honored for character trait of virtue

Venyke Harley is not much for pretense. Instead, she tries to interact with others in her workplace in a sincere manner while upholding the principles of professionalism, she said. It’s the way a strong mother and loving husband helped shape her, Harley said.

The Union native is employed as the Orangeburg County human resources director. Risk management, employee relations, special events, benefits administration, new hire orientation and training and development are among the duties for which she is responsible, but she manages it all with a pleasing disposition and adherence to the rules.

Harley’s dedication to moral and ethical principles has earned her designation as the exemplification of virtue as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.

The honor caught her by surprise, she said.

“I was definitely caught off guard, but I definitely felt honored and privileged to have been viewed in such a manner,” she said.

Harley said working in her department includes being responsible for a group of employees she has grown to view as family. She said she appreciates the support of Orangeburg County Council and other members of the county’s administrative team.

“We actually did a Christmas drop-in for the employees. I definitely feel like this is a family-oriented environment. We have a very supportive council and administrative team who value the employees’ contribution to the organizations, which I think goes a long way,” Harley said.

“People feel appreciated, and there is a vision for the employees which gives everybody a guide and motivation to know what they’re working towards.”

Harley said her husband, Warren Harley, a former assistant city administrator in Orangeburg who now works as deputy administrator in Richland County, helped lead her into a career of public service.

“I had worked in the private sector in human resources. My husband worked in government, and I had the opportunity to watch what he was able to do and the impact that government has on the community. Once I spent some time observing his role and some of the people that he worked with and the impact that they had on the citizens’ lives, I made the decision to transition out of the private sector into the public sector,” Harley said.

Virtue is important to display in her work environment, she said.

“From the human resources perspective, having high moral standards is very important. We are tasked on a day-to-day basis with making decisions that really impact our employees’ lives and the culture of the organization. It’s extremely important for anyone in the human resources profession or any type of managerial position to bring that character trait into your office every day,” she said.

Harley and her husband are the parents of two children, Brandon, 19, and Lauren, 15. She credits her Christian values and commitment to excellence with helping her raise her children and with other aspects of her personal life. She also credits her grandparents and her mother, Barbara, for helping her and her brother, Howard Free Jr., develop good character.

“I was fortunate to be blessed with my mom and family members who had very high moral standards. My mom has always been a very honest woman. She sacrificed greatly for me and my brother while we were growing up. She goes above and beyond to ensure that she is taking care of her children and her grandchildren,” Harley said.

“I’ve got a big bag of suckers and candy that she has given me to give employees here, including the group who does our housekeeping,” she said, laughing.

When she thinks of virtue, Harley said she is reminded of the Bible’s description of a virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:10-31.

“That’s an important scripture that all women should look at and use as a guide to how we carry ourselves and model our lives on a day-to-day basis. One thing I’ve learned about being a leader is that it’s just as important to be a follower. This is a team here, and you have to know how to follow and listen to your teammates,” Harley said.

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County’s human resources director honored for character trait of virtue
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