The hunt for a new town manager began Monday, when a human resources consultant with the N.C. League of Municipalities met with town leaders to discuss the process of searching, interviewing and hiring.
The consultant, Hartwell Wright, ran through the ABCs of recruitment – building a profile of what Zebulon’s commissioners are looking for in a candidate, how to assess candidates once applications start coming in and how to size up their backgrounds. He emphasized that there has to be complete buy-in among the board members for the process to go smoothly.
“I think quite frankly the town is in pretty good shape,” Wright said in a follow-up interview. “(Zebulon) had a long-tenured manager and it appears to me the town has a lot of political stability, which is all is good in the recruiting process.
“If you put yourself in the place of a candidate, working in a town where the board members don’t get along – and they’re your bosses – you might have a hard time moving your family there. I think (Zebulon) is going to be a very attractive place for candidates to consider.”
The board is now faced with establishing parameters for its ideal candidate. Mayor Bob Matheny said that discussion would begin at upcoming meetings.
Commissioner Curtis Strickland on Tuesday said prior job experience and how long a candidate intends to hold the position are important factors to him. Commissioner Don Bumgarner said he’s looking for a well-rounded contender.
“I would think education, experience, personality, ability to get along with the citizenry and the staff and board members,” Bumgarner said. “There’s just a myriad of things we’ll have to look for when shopping around for an employee. This will be a board decision and the procedure is just getting started.”
The typical timeline for hiring a town manager is about six months, Wright said, but Zebulon may see a setback for starting the process during the holiday season.
“We’re going to move on, but we’re not going to give it a 30-day window to accept applications,” Matheny said. “The town manager has to fit the town, and the town has to fit the manager. It’s not a quick decision type of thing, and we don’t know how many applicants we’ll get. Hopefully well get a good pool.”
Matheny said the town will carry out the entire process on its own, rather than enlisting the help of a consulting firm. That’s how the town has gone about the hiring of its last four town managers, all while Matheny has been an elected official in Zebulon.
“We’ve always done it ourselves,” he said. “We’re not like the City of Charlotte or Raleigh. We’re going to handle it on our own, which is very standard for a town of our size.”
Town leaders have yet to decide if they will make public the identities of any of the candidates before a final hiring decision is made.
“That’s four months or so down the road, and what we would have to consider is the confidentiality of the candidates, he said. “We’ve got other fish to fry right now.”