Doug Paris named Salisbury city manager

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Doug Paris went from “young Doug” to “Mr. Paris” when Salisbury City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to hire the 28-year-old as the new city manager.
Paris, who has never been a city manager but served as Salisbury’s interim for seven months, beat out 70 other applicants in a nationwide search. Paris began working for the city six years ago as a summer intern.
His mentor, former City Manager David Treme, gave Paris the nickname when Treme hired him in 2007 as Salisbury’s first assistant to the city manager. Paris was promoted to assistant city manager in 2010.
Paris now replaces Treme, who served for more than 25 years, and becomes Salisbury’s seventh city manager.
As interim, Paris impressed City Council with his business acumen, work ethic, willingness to tackle tough issues and knowledge of Fibrant, the city’s new broadband utility.
“The experience he didn’t have as a city manager was overcome by his experience in our system and his knowledge of the city’s needs,” Councilman Brian Miller said after the meeting.
Paris will earn a salary of $135,000, triple the $45,000 he was making five years ago as assistant to the city manager.
“He thinks like a businessman,” Mayor Paul Woodson said. “He goes after money, he goes after savings.”
Under Paris’ leadership, the city will save nearly $900,000 over several years by refinancing bonds and $100,000 annually by renegotiating Fibrant’s phone service contract.
The city credits Paris for securing from Rowan County $185,000 worth of ruggedized radios for the Salisbury Fire Department and $6 million for a downtown central school office.
Paris spent much of last year in Raleigh, working to protect Fibrant from a state law sponsored by the cable industry that he said could have shut down the city’s $33 million investment.
“Of all the candidates we interviewed, he’s the only one who really knew Fibrant,” Woodson said.
As Fibrant attempts to grow from 1,700 to 4,500 subscribers by 2014, the city “didn’t have six months or a year to bring someone up to speed,” Woodson said.
Under Paris’ aggressive leadership, Fibrant’s costs are down and sales are up, council members said.
“I personally was sold on him,” Woodson said.
Council members said they spent untold hours studying and debating the choice of city manager. The city paid a search firm $15,700, but Paris beat out candidates with as many as 30 years of experience.
“We could find no one better, or even close,” Mayor Pro Tem Susan Kluttz said.
As former mayor, Kluttz worked closely with Paris in Raleigh.
“I’ve see firsthand the incredible job he has done fighting for us there,” she said.
Paris worked to secure not only protection for Fibrant, but legislation that created the Salisbury Tourism Development Authority and gave the city a seat on the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC Board, she said.
Paris grew up in eastern Rowan County and is a 2002 graduate of East Rowan High School. He is son of Zina Risley of Richfield and Salisbury attorney Todd Paris.
He studied political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating with highest honors, and has a master’s degree in public administration from the UNC School of Government, where he was an Ed Wyatt Scholar. He maintains a certificate of Human Resources Management from Duke University.
Paris was a “superstar” who could have gone anywhere, but chose to return home, Kluttz said.
Council members called him a visionary who will take Salisbury “to the next level” and said his time as interim city manager was transformational.
“He’s worked on so many new ideas,” Maggie Blackwell said. “He could have just maintained the status quo, but he was not satisfied with that.”
Miller praised Paris’ “intestinal fortitude.”
“He has not shied away from tough decisions that a lot of interims would have just stayed out of because it was perhaps area that wasn’t safe to go into,” Miller said.
Some were personnel decisions and others related to Fibrant, Miller said after the meeting.
Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy said Paris accomplished in six months projects that had lingered for years, including sidewalks on Old Wilkesboro Road and obtaining local permitting authority, which allows the city to issue water and sewer extension permits rather than the state.
Paris also had the support of the city’s management team, Kennedy said.
In brief comments, Paris said it is an honor and privilege to serve.
“We will work hard and continue to pursue the objectives and outcomes and goals and vision that you have for our community,” he said.
The city will host a public reception and swearing-in ceremony at 3 p.m. March 20.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.