Council gets advice on city-manager search

Published 7:14 pm Saturday, January 15, 2011

Contributing Editor

The next step in the Washington City Council’s search for a new city manager will be developing a profile to use as a tool in helping find a replacement for former City Manager James C. Smith.
The council will develop that profile during a special meeting, set for 4 p.m., prior to its regular meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 24.
To help the council prepare itself for the search, Hartwell Wright with the N.C. League of Municipalities met with the council Thursday evening to advise the council on what to do and what not to do when it comes to recruiting and assessing applicants for the position and what to do when its ready to hire a city manager.
The city’s already started the advertising process in the hunt for the city’s top administrator. The deadline for applicants to submit resumes is Feb. 28, but the position will remain open until filled.
“I have to believe you’re going to get a lot of candidates,” Wright told the council, adding the state of the economy will be a factor in the council receiving many resumes.
Wright told the council the way it conducts its search for a new city manager could influence applicants in deciding whether they want to come to Washington or not. As the council scrutinizes the applicants, those applicants examine the city, Wright said.
“They’re going to be looking, quite frankly, at the community,” Wright said.
Wright also told the council and mayor that choosing a new city manager likely will be the most important decision they make during their time in office.
“This decision will affect every single person in this town,” he said.
Wright told the council the search likely will take about six months, from receiving resumes to making an offer to the preferred candidate.
“A competitive starting salary range for this position based upon Washington’s size, service area, geographic areas, and population is roughly $100,000 to $115,000,” reads a document prepared by Wright for the council.
Councilman Doug Mercer said he had checked the salaries of city managers in 28 North Carolina municipalities with populations ranging from 8,000 to 13,000 and determined that only four managers were making more than Smith when he was employed by the city. Smith’s annual salary was just over $110,000 when he resigned in October 2010.
Mercer, in a brief interview Friday, said the salaries for managers in those places range from about $72,000 to $130,000.
Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson reminded council that other items other than salary likely will make up the city manager’s compensation package, items such as a car allowance, life insurance, disability insurance, deferred income, retirement contributions and health-care insurance for dependents.
Roberson also said he expects the next city manager to want an employment contract — one that includes a severance package — between him or her and the city. Smith had such an agreement.