Robbins OKs Change to Town Charter
Commentary on this story on Thursday's Headlines Podcast .
Robbins will hire a town manager, and the town now has a full board.
Tuesday night, resuming the previously advertised board meeting that began last Thursday, Aug. 11, the commissioners first passed an ordinance changing the town charter from mayor/council form of government to council/manager, then appointed Lynn Loy to a vacancy on the board.
The charter change means all of them will lose authority they previously had as commissioners.
Under the previous form, each commissioner headed one or more committees to conduct municipal affairs. Whether it be water and sewer, or streets and sidewalks, or any other aspect of small town civic life, a commissioner ran it.
Robbins will now operate as Carthage does. Town Manager Carol Cleetwood runs the town. She hires and fires employees. Commissioners pass or repeal ordinances, set policies, and hire only two workers: Cleetwood herself, and town attorney Doug Gill (who is also attorney for Robbins).
State law sets the authority given town managers. It is extensive.
Changing to that structure will help Robbins move forward economically, commissioners felt. After considerable study on the matter, they took the first steps with a public hearing (nobody was opposed), an advertisement setting the date for this vote, and finally the charter change ordinance passed this week.
Unless residents successfully petition for a referendum on the matter within 30 days, the change goes into effect.
Then the town will begin efforts to recruit the right energetic, friendly and eager person to take on an historic task in this two-century-old settlement on the neck of Bear Creek.
The town incorporated as Hemp, with a mayor/council form of government under that name.
Karl Robbins, owner of the textile mill and employer of nearly everybody in Hemp, later proposed they change the town to honor his family -- after all, he'd built the park, and paid off the town debt.
That was done, and the town became Robbins -- except for the hardware store. It stayed Hemp Hardware. The owner refused to go along with the change.
The mill closed, though the Robbins family foundation still donates thousands of dollars every year to the Robbins Area Library.
After the current town commissioners called for help, people from all over the county pitched in to form a support team and help Robbins win a spot on the N.C. Rural Center's STEP program to give three years of guidance and support in helping small towns like Robbins find ways to increase economic prosperity.
Changing to a town manager system is a big step in that direction, commissioners say.
At that same meeting, after passing the ordinance of change, they added Loy, a former fire chief. He will join the board to fill a vacant seat created by the resignation of Mary Wood.
Loy had the highest vote count in the last municipal election, though he didn't try to get the job.
"I didn't actually run," Loy said. "People just wrote my name on the ballot. It turned out I was the next highest vote-getter."
That didn't mean commissioners were required to put the second highest ballot winner on in case of a vacancy -- though it is not uncommon for town boards to do it.
"They could have appointed anyone," Loy said. "I just said I would like to help out if needed."
His first job will be working with other commissioners to find a good manager for Robbins.
"I really don't know the next step personally," Loy said. "I assume we will advertise it, take applications and hire somebody."
John Chappell can be reached at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
More like this story