Eastern Wake News

Knightdale opts for in-house town manager search

The Knightdale Town Council at its summer retreat here Friday, July 22, decided to go with an in-house search process for its next town manager rather than bring in a consultant, and tweaked the organizational structure of town staff.

The council had started a discussion of whether to contract with a search firm to find a new manager Thursday on the first day of the retreat at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Wilmington, but wanted to wait on a decision until hearing input from Administrative Services Director Suzanne Yeatts who has participated in searches undertaken with search firms.

Yeatts said Knightdale’s town staff is better able to provide what a consultant could than many other towns and has conducted extensive searches with many different levels of assessment: “I think we have some expertise in-house that maybe some other places don’t have.

“This is something we can take on,” Yeatts said. “It would be a bigger process. ... But it is something we can do. It is something we are willing to do.”

Estimates for hiring a consultant probably would run from $15,000 to $30,000 she said.

“I didn’t realize we had all those capabilities in-house,” said council member Dustin Tripp, who said he thought it would be best to go ahead with an in-house search. The other council members agreed. It was Tripp who initially proposed the idea of hiring a consultant after hearing a presentation from a search firm principal.

The town is looking to replace former Town Manager Seth Lawless, who was forced to resign in June.

Also on Friday, the council reached a concensus to change the staff’s organization chart after a reorganization pushed by Mayor James Roberson was adopted by the council in February while Lawless was out on health leave.

The council reached the decision to reorganize the staff a second time, in part, because members decided the three directors reporting directly to the town manager – Yeatts, Development Services Director Chris Hills and police Chief Lawrence Capps – had been stretched thin under the current structure, which upped the number of employees reporting to each.

Friday’s move by the council, which is to be put on the consent agenda for the council’s next meeting Aug. 1 for final approval, would promote Finance Officer Kim Kenny to finance director, reporting to Yeatts. It would promote a senior planner to assistant development services director.

Also, a part-time code-enforcement position in the Development Services Department will be made full time.

The move would nix the possibility of hiring an assistant town manager, a move council and staff also discussed.

Capps said a budget amendment would be required to adjust for the promotions. He said the town can sometimes find money from vacancies that are carried for a few months and divert the unpaid salaries to the new positions, or, if necessary, the town can pull from savings.

Those moves would have to be OK’d by the council.

Matt Goad: 919-829-4826