Robbins Moves Ahead on Town Manager Search
The Robbins town commissioners recently met in special session and worked out a list of desired qualifications for a new town manager.
None of them were on the board five years ago when Robbins conducted a study of the manager/council form of government before changing its charter.
While new Mayor Lonnie English has completed courses for elected officials in council/manager government, not all commissioners have been able to take them. That difference became apparent during the meeting, when newly elected member Kevin Stewart made a startling proposal.
"As far as managerial needs of the town, I would like to see two-commissioner committees over different departments to work with the manager," Stewart said. "If the manager had a specific issue - like with the fire department - he could call on two commissioners to work with him on it."
Commissioner Hal "Rocky" Davis strongly objected to any such notion.
"That is going back to a mayor/council," Davis said. "That is exactly what that is. That ain't going to work."
"I may be wrong," English said. "I know the council can appoint somebody to be over a committee if they want to, but I don't think with a town manager. He runs the business."
"Somebody needs to be looking over that manager's shoulder," Stewart replied.
"That's what we have meetings in closed session for," English said. "You do evaluations. You do his annual evaluation. You can have him set up for annual objectives with quarterly reviews."
Commissioner Joey Boswell added, "You can't be a boss in between another boss."
Boswell said it would be highly improper for the commissioners to be working with individual employees. Stewart said if a manager had an issue, they could work with him on it.
"You can't do that," Boswell said. "It's illegal. Any of us - as a commissioner, whether it is on a committee or personally - cannot tell a town employee, 'I don't like the way you are doing this,' or 'you should be fired.' You'd actually be ... you'd be indicted. That's micromanagement, in my opinion."
Stewart replied, "We might need it. I think if we break this down into committees, we could keep everything in check."
English asked him if he meant having one committee over the fire department, one over the police department, another over the town manager, and so on.
"That would be going back," Boswell said.
English agreed with Boswell and Davis.
"What I am saying is - when you have a town manager - that's what he gets paid for," English said. "You will find that out at the school."
The commissioners used to have to handle every aspect of running the town under the old charter. That included hiring and firing employees - some of whom were often friends or neighbors or members of the same church. Even then, the mayor had little authority.
"This state uses the 'weak mayor' system," said Carl Stenberg, director of the University of North Carolina's Master of Arts in Public Administration program during a 2008 presentation on council/manager government to the Robbins board. "Mayors have no veto, no appointment authority over committees. 'Mayor' is primarily a ceremonial position. The authority of town managers is set in law by the General Assembly."
Once Robbins changed its charter, its mayor and commissioners had no more authority than any other residents except when sitting as a board, he explained. No commissioner or mayor is ever to give instructions to any town worker or even to their town manager, he told the board.
English said he is anxious to move forward and find a new town manager.
"I said, 'Put it in the paper' - there are people looking for jobs,'" English said. "We don't need to wait."
The board earlier appointed Police Chief Jeff Sheffield as the interim manager.
Robbins is seeking someone with at least a bachelor's degree in planning or public administration - preferably a master's degree - and two or more years of "direct experience in local government administration or any equivalent combination of education and experience."
The job entails managing town departments, 16 employees and a $1.7 million budget, along with other duties as required. The salary is negotiable depending on qualifications.
Contact John Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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