Raleigh council expected to name Charlotte’s Ruffin Hall as new city manager

ccampbell@newsobserver.comOctober 4, 2013 

— The Raleigh City Council will introduce its new city manager Friday morning, and all signs point to a Charlotte assistant city manager as the choice for the top job.

Ruffin Hall is widely believed to be the council’s pick from 80 applicants and four finalists who sought the position. Hall, who served as Charlotte’s budget director for a decade, was one of three finalists when the Queen City sought a city manager earlier this year. Since becoming an assistant city manager last year, he has overseen economic development, planning and transit for Charlotte, including the city’s light rail system.

Hall is new to Raleigh but no stranger to the Triangle. He completed a bachelor’s in political science at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1992 and later a master’s degree in public administration. He served as assistant to the Chapel Hill town manager in 1998 and 1999, and then spent two years in Durham as a senior budget analyst before moving to Charlotte in 2001.

Cal Horton, the now-retired Chapel Hill town manager who hired Hall out of graduate school, said his former assistant recently mentioned that he was interested in the Raleigh job.

Hall showed a knack for city management early on, Horton said.

“It was very clear that he had a long-term interest in the profession,” he said. “He put in a lot of hours and took on a lot of different kinds of assignments.”

Horton said Hall is skilled at keeping lines of communication open with council members, city staffers and the public – a key role for a city administrator who must balance diverse interests.

“If I were to summarize his greatest talents, it would be the ability to think, write and speak with great precision,” Horton said.

Communication was a concern Raleigh’s council voiced with former City Manager Russell Allen, who was fired in April.

“I think everybody knows we’ve had some issues on communication within the city staff and with the council,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said at the time.

Asked about Hall on Thursday, several council members said they wouldn’t comment until after Friday’s announcement. Others, including McFarlane, did not return phone calls. Hall also did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.

The announcement comes after a three-month search for Allen’s replacement. Despite outcry from two council members who favored an open process, the council majority declined to release the names of the four finalists. Recent searches for Wake schools superintendent and Raleigh police chief included public forums with the top candidates; so did Charlotte’s recent manager search in which Hall was a finalist. Raleigh leaders said they were concerned that publicity might scare away top applicants.

Raleigh residents are invited to meet the new manager after the announcement, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the lobby of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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