After countless late nights, controversies and big construction projects, Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen last month turned out the lights on a 12-year tenure leading the Capital City.
Allen was fired in April, and City Council members have been unwilling to provide specifics on why they let him go. He leaves behind a city drastically changed since he arrived from South Carolina in 2001. He presided over more growth than any of his predecessors, with the city adding 140,000 residents and 20 square miles of territory since he took office.
Allen’s fingerprints are all over the city’s biggest projects of the past decade – including the transformation of downtown’s Fayetteville Street, the new convention center and the future Dorothea Dix park. He’s recruited many of the city’s top employees and kept Raleigh running smoothly through the recession.
He’s had plenty of controversies, too. He took criticism for his handling of a sanitation workers walkout over pay and job conditions in 2006. He oversaw plans for a $205 million, 17-story public safety center that got scrapped. And he clashed at times with developers and council members.
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But he rarely took credit for the successes of his tenure. Even after his firing, he stayed on until June 30 to lead next year’s budget process and ensure a smooth transition. He declined to give interviews about his firing or his legacy, saying he wanted to be remembered for three things only: “He worked hard, he cared about the people, and he left the place a little bit better.”
Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin was among those who voted to keep Allen, and she said she was impressed by how he handled the firing.
“I can’t think of many people who, after being terminated, would sit there, still do his job, still be professional and carry out those last months, making sure he left the city in good shape and in good hands,” she said. “I think that tells you everything you need to know about his character.”