Every town is working toward something – financial stability, good parks, maybe a fast-food joint with a famous chicken sandwich. But whenever a town feels like it has arrived, there’s usually another place it needs to go.
The work of local government has few beginnings and ends; it’s more ribbons cut than bows tied. To try another metaphor: It’s a relay race from one generation to the next, with no finish line – and with Clayton having passed the baton to its new town manager, 39-year-old Adam Lindsay.
Former town manager Steve Biggs’ departure for the same job in Christiansburg, Va., seems a natural closing of one chapter and the start of another for Clayton. And it’s a promising chapter: The town has money in the bank, two large industries are breaking ground on expansions, a future parks and recreation bond referendum is teed up and ready to go.
Because of that, Lindsay will face a different set of challenges than Biggs did in his tenure. In the next few years, Clayton and its new manager will be judged on how well it weathers the promise of growth and if its small-town charm remains intact. In the short term, Lindsay will just have to learn the ropes and stay the course. The town council called him prepared and personable and told him they like where the town is heading.
“When the council met with me, they said they’re pleased with the direction the town is heading in,” Lindsay said. “It’s not like when a team changes its head coach and the next hire appears to compensate for the deficiencies of the last person. I didn’t get the sense I’m filling in the gaps that are already there. I’ve been given a strong directive to keep moving forward.”
Lindsay comes to Clayton from Southern Pines, where he was the assistant town manager. Before that, he worked in Rockingham County and Holly Springs. At his first town council meeting on Oct. 3, his young face might have stood out in the big seat in the council chambers, but he’s six years older than Biggs was when he arrived, and he comes with 14 years of working in local government.
With just two weeks on the job, Lindsay hasn’t had enough time to count the potholes around town, let alone map out the next era of Clayton. But he likes what he sees, pointing out that the town’s commitment to arts and parks stands out.
“Clayton is a unique and special place; the people who live and work here are unique,” Lindsay said. “The town has a cultural arts departments, which, especially for a community this size, is tremendous.”
In his first few days on the job, Lindsay said, he’s just keeping his eyes and ears open and trying to learn as much as possible. He said he’s being brought up to speed on the Novo Nordisk expansion and the sewage-treatment plant that’s on the way. He said he expects the $17.4 million parks and recreation bond referendum to be one of the first major projects he takes on.
“I didn’t come here with any preconceieved notion of making Clayton this one thing and not that,” Lindsay said. “My goal is to really do my very best to see we’re making and maintaining a premier community in North Carolina. I’m learning exactly what that means.”
“I’m thankful for the opportunity,” Lindsay continued. “I don’t have a list of what what I think we need to change around town. Clayton is growing. We need to manage that growth and do it in a smart way.”
Lindsay earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from N.C. State University, with the intent of pursuing a career in television broadcasting. But as an undergrad, he said, he began to realize running towns and communities is its own profession, that running water and good roads aren’t things that just happen.
“I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself that I could build value in, leave a little better than the way I found it,” Lindsay said. “I didn’t know city management was a thing. I love towns and communities. I love how the magic just happens that we take for granted, how the water turns on, the streets are paved, fire and police provide protections. I didn’t know much about it (in undergrad), but I knew I’d like to do that.”
In his career so far, Lindsay said, he’s most proud of the relationships he’s made in each of the communities where he’s worked, believing connecting people to one another and their government is the best way to build that sense of community. Sensing “relationships” are hard to quantify, Lindsay also mentions the animal shelter he helped build in Rockingham County as his proudest brick-and-mortar project to date, one that took years to bring to fruition but helped dramatically improve the adoption rate of homeless animals.
Lindsay said he thinks he’s found a part of North Carolina, the state where he and his wife grew up, that aligns with his lifestyle and values and that his goal is to preserve and develop what makes Clayton special.
“I want to be a good person; I want to be honest; I want to enjoy what life brings,” Lindsay said. “There’s a bigger picture than just what we’re looking at right now, our families, faith, our way of life. My goal is to help preserve those things.”
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson