Traits we want in a city manager

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 11, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Experience, character and budget mastery topped the list of what people want in Salisbury’s next city manager.
Several speakers at Wednesday’s forum also said the city manager should meet regularly with residents and run the city transparently.
About 30 people showed up for the 5 p.m. event, a good turnout according to facilitator John Anzivino, senior vice president of Springsted Inc. City Council will pay the Richmond, Va.-based firm $15,000 to conduct the search.
Longtime City Manager David Treme retired Aug. 1.
The speakers had these suggestions for qualifications:
Deedee Wright: Five years of senior experience in public management. Ideas to improve the city’s financial position and expand the tax base through economic development. Strong budgetary and managerial skills.
Harold Poole: Five to 10 years of experience, including a city with at least 20,000 residents. Top issue is the economy.
“What Salisbury has done to itself through Fibrant has really hurt us, and I hope the new city manager can find some way out of that,” Poole said.
As a former city planner, Poole worked with three former city managers. His favorite was Francis Luther.
“I liked his honesty,” he said.
Marina Bare: Six years experience, preferably outside of Salisbury. No tax hikes. No more grant money from the state or federal governments.
“Stop the city from being the state’s ‘beggar’ municipality,” Bare said.
Think independently and apply core Constitutional and free enterprise principles. Improve productivity and efficiency. Meet with residents at times when working people can attend.
Administer the city openly and don’t use the term “revenue neutral.”
“It’s just a nice way to lie about what you are doing,” she said.
J.R. Dunkley: Make it easier for small businesses to open and operate in Salisbury.
“This is not a small-business friendly town,” Dunkley said.
Improve the tax base and run government more efficiently. Strike a balance between historic preservation and economic development.
City has tremendous infrastructure but hasn’t used it well. “We are not taking advantage of our location,” he said.
William Peoples: Bridge-builder who will diversify the city’s workforce and “bring the have-nots at the bottom of the pay scale up,” especially firefighters and police officers.
Rip Kersey: Someone with good character, beliefs and values — qualities that are hard to measure.
It’s easy to determine a candidate’s technical knowledge and competencies, “but I want to make sure we have a good process for evaluating character,” Kersey said.
Clyde: Someone who is visible, has vision and shares the same viewpoint as residents.
Doesn’t trust the search process and doesn’t think City Council will listen to residents.
Darlene Blount: Reduce the budget to conform to the economic downturn. Use economic development to generate jobs. Reduce property taxes.
“The new city manager really needs to build confidence in local government’s ability to deal with these trying economic times,” Blount said.
Spend a year learning what residents really want and being available.
“It would be a great accomplishment to regain the trust of the citizens,” she said.
Deborah Scales: Experience in a private corporation. People who work in for-profit jobs are often better at budgeting because their livelihoods depend on it, she said.
“Governments rarely go out of business,” Scales said.
All Salisbury City Council members attended the forum but did not participate.
“We are just here to hear what you have say,” Mayor Susan Kluttz said. “It’s very important as we make this important decision that we know exactly how you feel about what you want in your next city manager.”
The meeting was recorded, and Kluttz said all comments will be used in the search process.
Anzivino, who facilitated the forum, will oversee the search. A retired city manager himself, Anzivino said he has conducted roughly 100 executive searches for towns with populations from 1,000 to 450,000.
He spoke highly of Salisbury, where he considered attending Catawba College, and praised the city’s historic preservation and arts base.
“You’re a high-growth community by most standards, and that’s something that most communities would relish,” he said.
Since Treme served for 25 years as city manager, the job has a “history of stability that makes the position attractive.”
Anzivino is interviewing all city department heads. The firm will take care of the “nuts and bolts” of the search process, from writing the recruitment brochure to negotiating a contract with the new city manager.
“We want to make sure this process will reflect on the city of Salisbury very, very positively,” he said.
Anzivino said he expects Salisbury to draw between 70 and 100 applicants.
While the search will be national, Anzivino said he’s worked with communities where elected leaders ultimately chose an internal candidate who was validated by going through the process.
Interim City Manager Doug Paris has said he will consider applying for the job.
An online survey is available through Aug. 25 at FK73RVH . Or go to and click on “City Manager Survey” under quick links.
For more information, call Anzivino at 804-726-9750 or Salisbury Human Relations Director Zach Kyle at 704-638-5229.

Salisbury’s city manager
• Serves as CEO managing delivery of city services
• Oversees $69 million budget and more than 500 full- and part-time employees
• Provides professional guidance to City Council
• Not elected and serves at the ‘will and pleasure’ of City Council
• Prepares annual budget and has the city audited
• Can approve buying real property valued at $10,000 or less
• Can approve contracts that don’t exceed $30,000
• Can settle claims against the city for damages to personal property that don’t exceed $1,000

How the search firm sees Salisbury
• Full-service city with a high quality of life
• Strategically located along I-85 with a strong corporate, college and arts base
• County seat
• Residents are active in government
• Recognized for historic past
• 16 square miles
• 33,663 population (28 percent increase since 2000)

Timeline for the search

Develop job description and town profile. Recruitment brochure completed.

Recruit through professional journals, newspapers, websites and word of mouth. Screen candidates. Phone interviews.

Present semi-finalists to City Council. Interviews and background checks. Select finalists.

Interviews by City Council. Negotiate employment. Hire city manager.

What some readers want in a new city manager
“Equal parts character and competence.”
Rip Kersey  
via Twitter

“He should have to wear a uniform like NASCAR. That way we know who his corporate sponsors are.”

“Don’t rush this. Doug Paris may do a great job.”

“They put a temporary replacement in that position, see how they do and go from there. There may not be a need to look farther than where you’re already at.”

“The council could have saved the fee paid to the ‘Search Firm’ and held this forum themselves. It’s not like they’d actually seriously listen to any citizen input anyway. Crime and fiscal prudence are the two biggest issues facing the city of Salisbury.”
southernmost point

“I believe they need to bring in someone from outside of Rowan County. We need fresh eyes. … No one should work as a city manager for 25 years.”
diddio mom

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.