Paris penned draft of mayor’s letter of recommendation
Woodson: No rush for new manager
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Former City Manager Doug Paris drafted his own letter of recommendation from Mayor Paul Woodson after the two discussed what should be included in the document, Woodson said.
Tuesday afternoon, Paris sent to the Post a glowing letter of recommendation signed by Woodson. Paris, the former city manager, and Elaney Hasselmann, the former public information director, left abruptly last week with little explanation. Neither has another job.
When Paris departed, Woodson said he would try to help him with a letter of recommendation.
Woodson on Tuesday said he and Paris began discussing the letter during City Council’s five-hour closed session on June 17. Paris left his job that night by mutual agreement with City Council.
“We wrote it together,” Woodson said. “I told him, we are going to write this and state the facts, not write it in a flamboyant fashion.”
The two talked about the letter again the following morning, Woodson said. Paris then called Woodson with a draft, he said.
They discussed it, Woodson made a few changes and told Paris to send it to City Clerk Myra Heard, who typed the letter, Woodson said. He signed it.
The letter says Paris did an outstanding job for the city and details his efforts in Raleigh to secure local legislation for the city’s tourism development authority, as well as negotiating a critical exemption for Fibrant from a new state law that would have effectively shut down the city’s high-speed broadband utility.
The letter also praises Paris’ abilities in strategic planning and delivering results.
“He had a superb ability to bring together stakeholders, develop consensus in a plan and successfully implement direction,” the letter states.
The letter says Paris doubled the city’s fund balance and stabilized Fibrant financially and brought about 99.999 percent reliability.
Woodson said he himself added the last line, “We are a financially stronger city due to his leadership, keen analytical ability, and he would serve you well.”
The letter is not addressed to anyone in particular and not dated. Woodson said the letter is factual and Paris did a lot of good for the city.
“There are a lot of rumors going around, and I don’t know if any of these rumors are true,” Woodson said. “I’m going on facts.”
Woodson said he remains in contact with Paris and if he had a brokerage firm, he would immediately hire Paris as the top analyst.
Woodson said he does not know what jobs Paris may be applying for and said their most recent conversation was about Paris’ remaining personal belongings in City Hall. Woodson said he has arranged to have some books delivered today to the Plaza, the city-owned apartment building on the Square where he said he believes Paris is still living.
Interim City Manager John Sofley said the city is running smoothly after the sudden departures of Paris and Hasselmann, and Woodson said he’s in no hurry to search for a replacement for Paris.
Sofley said members of the city’s management team are accustomed to filling in for each other when someone is on vacation or gone. An absence “doesn’t stop business from occurring,” he said.
“We always try to make sure we have people who are prepared and can step into roles when needed,” Sofley said.
When Paris and his predecessor, former City Manager David Treme, were on vacation, Sofley said he would step in as acting city manager.
Sofley said he will begin looking at Hasselmann’s former position and consider how to move forward. In the meantime, Heard, the city clerk, is interim communications director and is handling news releases and media requests, Sofley said.
He said other than Hasselmann, no one else has left the city’s communications department, which has three remaining employees.
Woodson said he will not rush to start a search for the next city manager. Now that next year’s budget has been passed — City Council on Monday approved increasing the tax rate, water-sewer rate, garbage fee and Fibrant TV rate — Woodson said he has three immediate priorities:
• Work closely with Sofley and seek feedback on city operations from Sofley, Assistant City Manager Zach Kyle and department heads, then brief fellow City Council members.
• Work to finally locate the new central office for Rowan-Salisbury Schools in downtown Salisbury, possibly in the 500 block of North Main Street.
• Work with Mike Jury, the general manager for Fibrant and head of the city’s technology services, to update Fibrant’s video platform.
“It’s lacking,” Woodson said.
He said Fibrant has plenty of TV channels but should offer more on-demand services to keep up with private competitors. Woodson said he plans to talk with Jury about how much money the city would need to invest in capital improvements to boost Fibrant’s video capabilities and noted the growing popularity of on-demand streaming media via Netflix and other providers.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.