The Town Council has formed a search committee to find its next town manager, but will likely not start advertising for the job until November or December.
“We want to make sure that we take our time and we do this right,” Mayor James Roberson said. “We just want to make sure whatever processes we put in place, they would be consistent with what the council wishes to happen.”
The committee is made up of council members Dustin Tripp and Randy Young and Human Resources Manager Marcey Bell.
The committee has had one meeting, Tripp said, where it mainly discussed the schedule for making the hire to replace Seth Lawless, who was forced to resign from the town manager position in June. Tripp said estimates for how long the process will take range from four to eight months.
“We’re not trying to rush through this,” Tripp said. “We want to take our time and make sure we do this correctly.”
The committee is conducting an internal survey of council members and department heads to identify the top six and bottom six traits the town needs in a new manager, Tripp said. “We want to see what constantly reappears,” he said. “We’re trying to get a good feel of what everybody is looking for.”
The survey, taken from the International City/County Management Association, lists 18 traits for a manager and asks for a ranking of either highly important, moderately important and least important.
The committee also will be reaching out to other municipalities that have recently conducted manager searches to get feedback on how they handled the challenge.
The committee will not be releasing names of candidates before the hire is made, Tripp said, because many candidates may not want their current employer to know they are looking. “We don’t want to decrease our candidate pool,” he said.
Tripp said the committee is including some prominent members of the public in the survey process. He said has heard from two, but doesn’t want to say whom until the committee has heard from everyone they contacted. He said the committee members welcome input from anyone who wants to reach out via email.
There was also discussion at the town’s summer retreat of having members of the public involved in assessment teams in some way, but those details have not been hammered out yet.
The council also agreed at the retreat, held in Wilmington in July, that it would like to hire someone with prior experience as a town manager and that it did not see any current town employee as a good candidate. The council also agreed at the retreat to conduct the search in-house rather than hire a consulting search firm.
The town manager would report directly to the Town Council and would be evaluated according to his or her relationship with elected officials; professional skills, including communication, community relations, staffing and leadership, fiscal management, reporting to the council and knowledge of current developments affecting the town and of town, state and federal ordinances and laws.
Personal characteristics the manager would be evaluated for include enthusiasm, cooperation, willingness to adapt, composure, self-motivation and understanding of others’ values, attitudes, goals and motivations.
Lawless resigned suddenly from the post shortly after returning from three months of forced health leave. He had served as town manager since 2010, and before that as assistant town manager since 2006. The Town Council approved a $114,000 severance package for Lawless after he tendered his resignation.
Hal Mason, a Garner retiree with decades of experience in municipal governments in North and South Carolina, is serving as the interim town manager on a part-time basis while the search is ongoing.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826