Tax Administrator Picked as Interim County Manager
By JOHN LENTZ
The Moore County Board of Commissioners has chosen county Tax Administrator Wayne Vest as its interim county manager.
Vest was chosen in a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Jimmy Melton was absent from Monday's special meeting.
Vest takes the place of the late Jim Westbrook, who died in an automobile accident on Nov. 27, the day after he began his duties as interim manager. County Manager Cary McSwain retired from his position on Nov. 30.
"It was a surprise to be asked to assume the interim county manager position," Vest said after emerging from the closed session meeting in which his appointment was confirmed. "The county has a good plan in place, and I will be working with a group of well-qualified people."
Board Chairman Nick Picerno said that Vest's appointment "will ensure the continuation of the best interests of the citizens and employees of Moore County."
"Mr. Vest was chosen because he is well-respected and well-known, and he will bring continuity and familiarity in the leadership of Moore County government," Picerno said. "He is adequately prepared to serve both roles well. The board's goal is to name a new county manager before the next fiscal year begins, so this will be a short-term process."
Picerno said that the "ideal scenario" would be to have a new county manager in place by May.
"That way, he or she could be up to speed by the time our new fiscal year begins on July 1," he said.
Picerno stressed that Vest's appointment is not a reflection on Assistant County Manager Ken Larking's abilities to do the job.
"Asking Ken to take on the interim county manager's position could place him in an awkward position," Picerno said. "He has stated that he will apply for the county manager's job, and we wanted to ensure that there would be an even playing field when it is time to choose a county manager."
Commissioner Craig Kennedy said that Larking's appointment might give the appearance that the county was "going through the motions."
"We felt that if prospective applicants were searching online for a position in county government, and saw that we had appointed the assistant manager to be the interim, that they would consider it a 'done deal' and not apply," he said. "We want to make sure we receive the best pool of applicants that we can."
Kennedy said that just prior to his death, Westbrook created an outline for county administrators to use in choosing the next county manager.
"Jim left us a good, detailed plan that will assist us greatly in saving money for the county and helping us get the best person we can for the job," he said. "He was going to head up the recruitment process for the next county manager."
Vest, a native of Moore County and a graduate of North Carolina State University, was appointed to the tax administrator position in 2007 and was reappointed in 2011. He has been employed in the tax department since 1998. Prior positions include serving at various levels of management with Fieldcrest Cannon, Mohawk Industries, and the Deep River Mills textile firms.
Vest will assume his new duties immediately.
In other news, the board approved Public Works Director Randy Gould's recommendation that Bio-Nomic Services Inc. of Charlotte be awarded a contract to clean the primary and secondary digesters at the county's Water Pollution Control Plant. The contract was granted to the McGill Environmental Systems company of Harrells for $195,000 at the board's Dec. 3 meeting, but Gould said the company was "unable to secure" the necessary resources to do the job.
"The contract was awarded to McGill, but after the meeting it became apparent that they couldn't do it," Gould said. "We felt it best to award it to the second lowest bidder, which was Bio-Nomic."
The company offered to do the job originally for $342,000 but lowered that offer to $205,000, which commissioners approved.
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or jlentz@thepilot. com.
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