Editoral: A changing of the guard

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 8, 2012

When Doug Paris became Salisbury’s interim city manager seven months ago, it was obvious he wasn’t simply keeping the seat warm until someone else arrived. He was also a candidate to succeed David Treme, which meant that Paris would get especially close scrutiny from City Council members and others on the administration team, as well as the public.
It was, in essence, a lengthy audition that involved the real-world consequences of overseeing city government. On Tuesday, city officials declared he not only passed the test but did so in conclusive fashion, coming out atop 70 applicants and getting a unanimous vote of confidence.
Council members praised Paris’ businesslike approach to the dollars and cents side of governing, pointing to savings realized under his interim oversight. They also were impressed with his knowledge of Fibrant, the fiber optic system that has become one of the more galvanizing issues in recent history. Helping to expand Fibrant and put it on sound financial footing will be one of Paris’ challenges, along with guiding the city toward the economic renaissance we hope is on the horizon.
In addition to business and managerial savvy, city managers need diplomatic skills. Paris had a rough go in that regard as he and County Manager Gary Page had a public spat over 911 systems. But at the joint city-county lunch this week, officials made it clear they’ve put that behind them. If they can embrace greater cooperation and more cordial relations, that will help city and county alike, making everyone’s job easier.
While serving as an “interim” can sometimes have a “lame duck” connotation, in this case it was an advantage for the council and for Paris. Council members were afforded an up-close and personal look at Paris’ managerial style, and he got a crash course in the realities of running city government — a position he can now call his own at the age of 28.
He’s younger than many of the people he’ll be managing, but he’s certainly no callow newcomer. He’s had years of experience in Salisbury’s government, giving him knowledge and familiarity another candidate might take years to develop. There’s also a satisfying symmetry in a historic city putting youth at the helm. In effect, this isn’t simply a transition to a new manager but a generational changing of the guard. Although Doug Paris isn’t exactly a new face, he brings new energy and a fresh outlook to the city. We wish him well.