The town of Zebulon formally kicked off its effort to find a permanent town manager on Monday with a visit from a consultant with the N.C. League of Municipalities. We encourage an open, inclusive process.
Accomplishing that means a few extra steps for town commissioners, but it promises a stronger result in the end.
Being inclusive means asking townspeople to weigh in on what they think the town commissioners should look for in a good town manager. Does that person need to be a good financial manager? A good judge of character? A strong parks and recreation advocate? All the above? Something else entirely?
Voters delegate to town commissioners the responsibility for hiring a manager. And, in the end, their wisdom is put to the test as they select the best candidate for the job. But that doesn’t mean commissioners wouldn’t benefit from the collective wisdom of the people who put them into office in the first place.
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Inclusion also means giving residents a chance to get to know the top canddates for the position before a final choice is handed down. We understand this is a scary proposition for commissioners who can be overwhelmed by an avalanche of well-meaning opinions. By opening the process, commissioners gain the collective vetting of the community. Durham and the Wake County school system are two local governments we know have used that process to vet candidates and have made good decisions in light of the feedback they received from the rank-and-file electorate.
Opening the process also ensures that candidates are comfortable with being the focus of the public gaze. After all, the job is at the top of the food chain of public jobs on the local level.
Commissioners have a challenging task ahead of them. It’s an important one – important enough that commissioners should draw upon every resource in their tool box to find the best person for the job.