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Editorial: In local government leadership, more leaving than coming in of late

It’s a good time to be in search of a town manager job in Rowan County, but that job hunt should never begin with the expectation that things will last for long.

Lately, there are more town managers leaving than coming in. Right now, open manager jobs include those in Landis, Spencer, East Spencer and Granite Quarry. All of those have come open since the start of the year. Only Granite Quarry’s former manager, Phil Conrad, left without any controversy and on good terms.

Many in Rowan County are aware of the basic details of politics in Landis. The State Bureau of Investigation is in the midst of an embezzlement probe that counts former Manager Reed Linn as a subject.

The run-up to his departure from the town is worth recounting. Linn reacted to a January Salisbury Post story about budget issues by having Mayor Mike Mahaley read aloud a letter at the February board meeting. In that letter, Linn raised a number of concerns about the Post’s story, which relied primarily on a letter sent by the state Local Government Commission. Mahaley said Linn would voluntarily step down as town manager on March 1 and stay on as fire chief. He would take vacation time from Feb. 5 until March 1.

Just a few days later, the SBI had begun its probe, and Linn’s resignation became official sooner than expected.

The remaining two openings are evidence of the fact that local politics can be volatile. The newest opening is a prime example.

Spencer hired Terence Arrington in October as its town manager. And just six months into a three-year contract, he is out after turning in his resignation. The cause of his departure appears to be a failure for him and the board to develop a basic professional relationship.

Who’s at fault for that failure depends on whom you talk to. Arrington would say that the board micromanaged him and town staff and failed to consider any of his ideas. Some members of the town board might say something completely different, laying the blame on Arrington.

But there’s no doubt Arrington resigned in a huff after telling the board it needed to make a call about his future.

Meanwhile, in East Spencer, things were less dramatic. Veteran Town Manager F.E. Isenhour resigned after the Board of Aldermen requested he step down, and he wrote a letter saying as much. His departure marked the third in the town manager slot in just a few years.

And he appropriately described the churn in local government management when he said “you’re always prepared” to resign.

“There are times when you want to go in a different direction,” Isenhour told reporter Shavonne Walker in March.

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