Search Begins For Robbins' First Manager
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Robbins has begun the process of hiring a town manager.
In fact, Robbins is also on the lookout for an interim manager to fill the position while advertisements go out, applications come in, and candidates are interviewed.
This will be the first town manager in the town's 200-plus years.
Some new commissioners took their seats after last year's election.
One, Mark Garner, brought to one of his first meetings a discarded brochure he'd plucked from a Carthage sidewalk. It described an opportunity to compete for a place in a demonstration project of the N.C. Rural Center -- Small Towns Economic Prosperity, or STEP.
"It looked like it was written with Robbins in mind," Commissioner Theron Bell said.
The town won one of the coveted slots after many meetings rethinking what Robbins is about, what it has to offer, what future it should aim toward. Those meetings with local supporters and willing helpers from all over Moore County led to many new ideas.
One, put in place over the summer, changed Robbins' form of government from mayor/council to manager/council. A 30-day window closed with nobody asking for any referendum on the change.
Robbins is now operating under that revised charter -- but the town has no manager. State law requires that an interim manager be named, and Robbins will tackle that choice first.
Commissioners met with Hartwell Wright, a human resources consultant with the North Carolina League of Municipalities. He had already helped the town through the charter change process. Now he came to help them deal with "the most important decision you will make during your term of office -- hiring a town manager."
It is important to know what you must have as well as what you would like to have, he said.
"Keep your 'must' list short," he said. "You can have your 'wish list' as long as you like."
He told commissioners they were in charge of the process and could follow any path they thought best -- but his preference would be for all commissioners to be involved in the search.
Robbins would pick one person to handle the applications. Commissioners asked Town Clerk Debra Cockman to take on that responsibility. She is already serving as finance officer in addition to her duties as clerk.
"From a legal perspective, the entire list of candidates can be confidential," he said. "The only information that, legally, needs to be made public is the new manager's name and salary at the time of hiring."
While interviews may take place in closed sessions, and a simple telephone call from Mayor Mickey Brown to the top choice can determine if that candidate would accept an offer, a vote to make an offer -- with details of salary and contract -- has to take place in open session at a Town Board meeting.
During the search, applicant names can be kept confidential.
"If you choose to make applicants publicly known, it could possibly deter applicants from municipal governments in North Carolina," he said. "Most municipalities in North Carolina -- including large cities -- have a closed, confidential selection. "
While applicant names may be kept in confidence, the board should do its best to keep public and press as apprised as possible of the process, Hartwell said.
"Let them know what is going on as specifically as possible without discussing any individuals or their characteristics," he said. "For example, the number of applicants being considered, important dates, and so forth."
The first thing will be to decide what Robbins will search for, as it looks for a manager, he said.
"I recommend each of you make up your own list," he said. "Then, meet and share your ideas."
At a work session Tuesday, commissioners assigned themselves this task. Each of them will list the important qualifications, preparation, experience and other characteristics they want the manager to have. They will say what a successful applicant "must" have, and what they would want that person to have, ideally.
In discussion, some thought a person with some experience of life would be ideal. Others thought youthful vigor, eagerness and enthusiasm would be as important as experience.
They were to bring their lists to the regularly scheduled October board meeting, Thursday, Oct. 12.
Cockman herself considered applying.
Ultimately, Cockman decided not to apply at this time. Instead, she will handle the process for her town.
The board is encouraging people to suggest qualifications to commissioners, and spread the word. This year, and the three- year STEP experiment, marks a turning point for Robbins -- an exciting time to be a part of, they say.
John Chappell can be reached at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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