City council taps new manager for Washington

Published 7:11 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2018

As Washington City Manager Bobby Roberson prepares for retirement, residents can expect to see a new face at the helm of city government come November.

On Monday, the Washington City Council voted unanimously to hire Elm City Town Administrator Jonathan Russell to take on the role of city manager, effective Nov. 5.

Coming from Elm City, a town of 1,300 in Wilson County, Russell is no stranger to eastern North Carolina. A native of Craven County, Russell is an alumnus of East Carolina University, where he earned three degrees — a master’s degree in public administration, a Master of Science in geography/planning and a Bachelor of Science in political science.

Professionally, Russell brings 11 years of managerial experience to the table. In addition to serving as town administrator in Elm City since 2010, he also worked as town manager of LaCrosse, Virginia. Prior to those positions, Russell worked for the City of Greenville as assistant to public works director and city engineer.

“Jonathan has an impressive record in achieving success in grant funding and economic development initiatives,” City of Washington HR Director Stacey Everette said in an email to staff announcing the hire. “He has generated significant opportunities; hotel renovation project, sidewalk project and a historic train depot rehabilitation project, just to mention a few.”

In the same email, Russell is quoted as describing his management philosophy as focusing on, “building a high performance, citizen-friendly organization based on established goals and objectives.”

While Roberson says he requested to not take part in the process of hiring his successor, he was complementary on the city council’s handling of the task. Roberson is slated to retire on Dec. 31, creating a period of approximately 60 days for the incoming manager to collaborate with the outgoing.

“I’ll be working with him through the process,” Roberson said. “We’ll be meeting with all the department heads, talking about the operating budget, the capital improvement programs, the projects we have on the board, the advisory committees and then go right into the budget process.”

According to an Oct. 5 article in the Wilson Times, Russell was recently certified as a credentialed manager through the International City/County Manager Association. Candidates for the credentials are expected to demonstrate, “a commitment to high standards of integrity and to lifelong learning and professional development,” among other qualities.

”There’s a lot going on in Washington, so we want to build on that,” Russell said. “There’s good staff in place, a good council to work with, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.”

Russell said he and his wife Shannon, along with their daughter Lilly and son Grover, are looking forward to becoming part of the Washington community.