Selma has a new town manager.
The Town Council on Tuesday hired Jon Barlow, who was town manager in Fuquay-Varina until he resigned without explanation on June 28. He has almost 20 years of experience as a town manager.
Barlow said he was excited to get to know the citizens of Selma. “I hope they find me approachable and they do see me and feel like that they can stop and talk to me,” he said. “I’m available and make myself accessible, and I just look forward to getting to know everybody.”
Barlow, 49, has also been town manager in Roxboro, Nashville and Lake Waccamaw. Before that, he was a police officer in Raleigh.
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Selma, which will pay Barlow $92,000 a year, chose him out of 52 applicants, said Mayor Cheryl Oliver. “We whittled it down to a top five over time, and Jon (Barlow) came out on top,” she said.
Selma’s former town manager, Richard Douglas, left in the summer for a job with the Town of Erwin. Since then, Tom Hogg has served as interim manager. Barlow will start Jan. 2.
Oliver said Barlow stood out because of his experience as town manager, including long-term utility planning and town finances. He also understands the value of consistent code enforcement and has strong leadership qualities, she said.
Oliver added that Barlow is a good listener who understands the importance of communication with citizens, employees and the town council.
“And folks who have worked with him as one of his employees view him as a coach and mentor and a team player,” Oliver said. “To us, there were appealing attributes in a lot of areas.”
Oliver said she was not concerned about Barlow’s unexplained resignation in Fuquay-Varina.
Barlow said he plans first to familiarize himself with Selma. “To get an understanding of what the issues are, what progress they got going on, what needs to be done, what are the challenges, where does the board want to go,” he said. “And that is one thing I’ll really work hard on, to get a sense of what direction (the council) wants to move the community in and how the manager can play into that role.”
Barlow also hopes to grow Selma’s tax base, services, resources and jobs while keeping the small-town feel. “I got a good understanding that the services they provide and the staff they have now is excellent,” he said.
His chief goal, he said, is “to contribute something to the overall success of the town.”
For now, Barlow plans to live in Fuquay-Varina until his daughter, a senior, graduates from high school. He then plans to move to Selma with his wife, a teacher, and his son, a sixth-grader.
Although he resigned in Fuquay-Varina, the town council there agreed to pay him his salary and benefits for six months. That will cost Fuquay-Varina taxpayers $77,656.
Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne said giving Barlow the money package “was the right thing to do.”
“I will never say anything bad about Jon Barlow,” he said at the time.
In his resignation letter, Barlow did not say why he was leaving, only that he was pursuing future endeavors.
In an interview last week, Barlow said, “I made the decision I was going to go somewhere else.” He would not elaborate. After resigning, he began applying for other jobs.
When asked what he would say to Selma taxpayers who might be woner if we would leave their town abruptly, Barlow said: “Just look at my history. I’ve got a long tenure everywhere else.”
“It’s one of those things; it’s like a marriage that ends,” Ed Ridpath, a Fuquay-Varina commissioner, said at the time. “It’s obvious to me, at this point, the relationship has ended. No one wants it to end badly.”
During Barlow’s time with the town, Fuquay-Varina’s property tax rate remained steady, and Barlow helped with a new health-incentives program for town employees.
Under his management, the town ended its decades-long contract with the Fuquay-Varina Athletic Association, which provided youth sports programs. The town created its own program, a move that drew protests from some parents and FVAA supporters.
Staff writer Aliana Ramos contributed to this report.