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Former Marco Island Community Development Director Greg Niles died Saturday in North Carolina at age 44, apparently of a heart attack.
Niles was Guilford County Planning Director.
Ironically, many of his extended family members were on hand, because his son Connor was set to graduate from high school this week.
As news of death of the family man and former Peace Corps specialist filtered through the Marco community and City Hall Monday, friends and colleagues spoke through shock and sorrow as they remembered him.
Zoning Administration and GIS Manager Don Blalock said Niles’ wife Claire had called friends Ed and Maria Ruiz with the news after Niles’ death Saturday.
“She told them she wanted his friends and colleagues to know about it,” said Blalock, “so I came in yesterday (Sunday) and started making calls.”
Apart from being a consummate professional at his job, Blalock said, Niles was every inch a dedicated family man, raconteur and helpful neighbor.
“He impressed me as a man who loved his family,” Blalock said, occasionally excusing himself to regain his composure. “He loved his wife, loved his children (Connor, Aiden and Liam), and he always used to say how much they did for him.”
Many people will remember Niles as low-key and mild-mannered, but not many knew he had a keen sense of humor, was a passionate chef and a great handyman around the house.
“He could imitate people ... he had (former City Councilor) Kjell Petersen down cold; he made great sausage gravy and biscuits, and he was always working on his house,” Blalock said. “He even helped me put in my flooring. He said ‘let’s fix,’ and we did the whole thing in one afternoon.”
Blalock said his information is that Claire Niles is doing okay, “under the circumstances.”
Bill Moss, Marco’s first city manager, initially made acquaintance with Niles in the mid-1990s, when Moss was city manager of North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.
“When I was hired as Marco’s city manager in 1998 and needed to build the city organization, I reached out to Greg, and he agreed to come down,” Moss said.
“I knew him both professionally and as a friend, and all who met with him would agree he was intelligent, extremely likeable and a dedicated family man.”
Moss said he’d been receiving calls about Niles all day Monday.
“It’s unbelievable. He was just too young,” Moss said.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized.