It comes as absolutely no surprise that Garner Town Manager Hardin Watkins is leaving Garner for greener pastures. He accepted an offer to become Burlington’s city manager last week.
The tension between Watkins and some members of the town council has become thick, for reasons, frankly, that we can’t fathom.
Over the past eight years, the town of Garner, under Watkins’ watch, has come out of a monstrous recessions, won support of the public for $35 million in public improvements, seen explosive growth in the White Oak area and has started targeting other parts of the town’s planning jurisdiction for future growth. Oh, and yeah, it was named an All-America City.
To be clear, none of the accomplishments belong to Watkins alone. But in each case, he has shepherded the effort through to completion, clearing obstacles at times, setting guidelines and limits at other times.
In a sense, Watkins’ tenure here has lasted much longer than the average town manager, who typically stays in a job for about three years.
In Watkins’ case, he was working with a veteran group of council members who knew Watkins’ track record and his capabilities.
But let’s be clear: It was a mistake for council members to run Watkins off. In doing so, they lost a good man who had a vision for the town that aligned with the elected leaders and, more importantly, with what the public would like to see Garner become. He had the ability to make that vision become a reality and the skill to navigate treacherous waters.
Council members should have been aware of the old adage that you need to be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.
Well, some of the council members wanted Watkins gone. Now they’ve gotten it. We will have to hunker down and see exactly what that means going forward.