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Triangle Politics: Former Wake manager a finalist for manager's job in Dallas

From Staff ReportsJanuary 10, 2014 

Retired Wake County Manager David Cooke has emerged as one of three finalists for the city manager’s job in Dallas.

Cooke was named one of six semifinalists for the Dallas job last month, less than two weeks after leaving his post in Wake. He and the other two finalists – interim City Manager A.C. Gonzalez and Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana – are scheduled to go through a second round of interviews with Dallas City Council members in Texas next week, according to the Dallas Morning News.

It would be a bigger job for Cooke than the one he just left, in terms of budget and employees. In Wake, Cooke administered a $982 million budget with 3,600 workers. Dallas has a $2 billion operating budget and 12,000 employees, according to the Morning News.

Cooke also would have more bosses; the Dallas City Council has 15 members, compared with seven county commissioners in Wake.

Cooke, 53, retired in November after a 30-year career in municipal government that began with the city of Charlotte. He came to Wake in 1996 as deputy county manager, then was appointed to the top job in 2000, after the retirement of Richard Stevens.

Wake County commissioners have received 58 applications to replace Cooke. The board hopes to name a new manager in the early spring, said commissioner Joe Bryan.

‘We don’t have a quorum’

Tuesday’s proceedings at the Raleigh City Council briefly came to a halt after Wayne Maiorano and Bonner Gaylord had to recuse themselves on a routine development matter.

Both men had to bow out while developer John Kane sought a minor easement change for his Hillsborough Street apartment complex. Kane is Gaylord’s boss, and Maiorano works for the same law firm as Kane’s attorney, so both had conflicts of interest.

With Russ Stephenson and Thomas Crowder absent, that left only four council members at the table.

“Oops,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said. “We don’t have a quorum.”

Five council members must be present to take a vote, so City Manager Ruffin Hall agreed to have city planners handle Kane’s request themselves.

But the episode prompted a jab from Randy Stagner, a former council member who had predicted frequent conflicts of interest during his unsuccessful campaign against Maiorano. Stagner is apparently watching the council meetings from home now and keeping track of the recusals.

“For those keeping score, two last time and three this time,” he tweeted to two journalists. “At least he shows up for the meeting?”

Maiorano said the recusals so far don’t involve his district, and at-large council members can represent his constituents when they do. “It’s foreseeable as an attorney in a large firm that conflicts are going to arise,” he said. “I’m very sensitive to make sure I address them in a transparent way.”

Former schools chair honored

Wake County school board members honored Keith Sutton this week a month after ousting him as board chairman.

New board Chairwoman Christine Kushner presented Sutton a plaque “on behalf of the board with heartfelt thanks for your dedication and excellence to advocating for students.” Kushner had defeated Sutton last month on a 7-2 vote that upset some African-American community leaders.

Sutton, whose term on the board runs until 2016, thanked his colleagues. He used harsher words such as “elitist” to describe his colleagues in media interviews after last month’s vote.

“It was a bit of a surprise,” Sutton said of the award.

Board member Susan Evans, who had voted for Kushner, also thanked Sutton for his leadership. During his one-year term as chairman, voters approved an $810 million school construction bond issue, a new superintendent was hired and state legislation to shift school construction authority from the school board to the county commissioners was defeated.

“I think you showed a great deal of leadership through some very tricky legislative issues and some other things,” Evans said. “I just want you to know it’s appreciated.”

Political events

• Wake County Senior Democrats will meet Jan. 15 at the Marriott Hotel Crabtree at 11 a.m. Ann McColl, N.C. Association of Educators general counsel, will speak on lawsuits challenging the state’s private-school voucher program and the end of tenure for public-school teachers. Lunch begins at 11 a.m., followed by the program at 11:30 a.m.

• Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones will deliver her 2014 State of the Town Address on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. Presented by the Wake Forest Rotary Club, the address and dinner will be held at the new Wake Forest Renaissance Centre, 405 S. Brooks St. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the event and include a catered meal. For more information, including how to buy tickets online or at Town Hall, visit www.wakeforestnc.gov/state-of-the-town.aspx

• Wake Board of Commissioners vice chairman Tony Gurley and Kushner will be among the speakers at WakeUP Wake County’s annual meeting at the Junior League Building, 711 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh, on Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. Wake County Solid Waste Director John Roberson and a representative from WasteZero will give keynote presentations about the challenges and potential solutions for dealing with solid waste in our growing communities. The meeting is free and open to the public. To register, visit www.wakeupwakecounty.org.

Compiled by Richard Stradling, Colin Campbell and T. Keung Hui.

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