After weeks of speculation, and confirmation from the mayor and a council member last week, Rodney Dickerson has officially been named the next town manager of Garner.
He signed his contract at Tuesday night’s town council work session.
With his wife in the audience, Dickerson thanked his family, the council members, the town staff and the town managers who preceded him.
Dickerson said he became an assistant town manager with the goal to become a manager some day.
“It means a lot to me – especially having been in this community so long – to have the opportunity to take the top role,” Dickerson said.
He said his goal is to carry out the visions the council set forth for the town and “to make sure we have a productive staff and we’re providing citizens the best service in an efficient and effective way,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson succeeds Hardin Watkins, who had served as the town manager for eight years. Watkins’ last day as town manager of Garner was Jan. 4.
Dickerson will make a $145,000 base salary. He will also receive a work cell phone and a $541.67 monthly car allowance. Like all full-time and part-time town employees, he will be eligible for performance pay increases.
Dickerson emerged as a favorite for the position not long after Watkins left.
He has been with the town for 15 years, including 12 as the assistant town manager when he was appointed to that position in 2004.
He had been a finalist for the position in 2007, but Watkins won the position behind a 4-1 vote of the council.
Council members just wanted to know if he’d be interested in the position again.
The council discussed whether they would open the search to candidates outside of Garner, but opted not to do that.
“The council and I place great value on Rodney’s well-demonstrated commitment to Garner,” Mayor Ronnie Williams said in a statement. “He is a consummate professional and has helped move Garner forward in a multitude of ways. He led the Town’s budget team for several years, has crafted important town policies and has overseen essential operations.”
The town council met with Dickerson behind closed doors twice in the past few weeks to talk with him about the position and work out details of his contract.
Council member Buck Kennedy said one of the things that moved the hiring process along was the fact that the employees and the council were behind Dickerson.
“We believe the employees not only wanted to know who their leader was going to be, but they were very much encouraging us that they wanted you to be that leader,” Kennedy said during the meeting.
A full plate
Dickerson, 48, a Duke University graduate, was named the interim town manager in December when Watkins resigned after eight years to become the city manager of Burlington. The position in Burlington paid about $30,000 more.
Dickerson played for Duke’s football team while there. He started on defense for Duke when the Blue Devils tied for first in the ACC and went to the All American Bowl in 1989 in future Hall-of-Fame head coach Steve Spurrier’s last season as coach.
After graduating Duke in 1990, Dickerson received a master of public administration from N.C. State in 2001. He completed the UNC-CH Public Executive Leadership Academy in 2007.
Garner now has a little more than 27,000 residents and has experienced a flurry of commercial growth in recent years, including the White Oak Shopping Center, a Cabela’s outdoors store and the Greenfield Parkway business park. Voters approved a $35.7 million bond in 2013 that has built a police station and will be used to construct sidewalks, greenways, a new town hall and a recreation center, among other things.
In a few years, the southern leg of N.C. 540 will be built and is expected to spur housing growth near the route as it passes just south of Lake Benson.