10 to Watch in 2022: New Salisbury city manager

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 2, 2022

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — While the city has not yet hired a new manager to replace outgoing Lane Bailey, the selection and hiring of that person will be among the biggest tasks for City Council members in 2022.

For that reason, the Post has named the city’s new manager as one of the 10 to Watch in the new year.

This summer, Bailey, who’s been managing the city since 2015, announced his retirement. The city then held a public meeting in August with Hartwell Wright, a human resources consultant with the North Carolina League of Municipalities who helped guide the city on which direction to follow as a governmental body for this hiring process.

Salisbury’s governing body utilizes a council-manager model where the city council sets goals and a vision for the city and tasks the manager with handling the day-to-day affairs and city employee management.

After a public virtual meeting in October to interview two firms, the city ultimately selected Chicago-based consulting firm Baker Tilly to assist the city for the next few months in recruiting candidates for the next manager.

In the meantime, retired Concord Manager Brian Hiatt will serve in the interim until the new hire is made. Hiatt was hired upon the recommendation of Wright, who the city authorized to provide as an external option based on the pool of retirees across North Carolina who have expressed a desire to work in a temporary capacity.

The city’s fiscal year budget must be approved no later than June 30. So, Hiatt will be responsible for the bulk of budget preparation this spring. Among his biggest challenges will be recruiting and retention issues across the city, but particularly in the city’s public safety departments. The city is currently undergoing a comprehensive pay study, with findings expected to be discussed and incorporated into the new budget. Preliminary findings in November allowed the city to grant Salisbury firefighters with interim pay raises. Additionally, included in the 2021-22 budget were pay raises for police and public works employees.

Hiatt is the former city manager of Concord, a position he held for nearly 20 years before retiring in 2018. Before then, he was an assistant city manager in Hickory for more than 10 years. The city of Salisbury named Hiatt its interim planning director in 2018 until Hannah Jacobson was selected in April 2019. Hiatt received a bachelor’s degree in history and government from Appalachian State University and a master’s in public administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Baker Tilly has been soliciting input from council members and city staff to create a profile and recruiting strategy for the city. The first phase of interviewing is conducted via telephone. Then, council members will be provided with pre-recorded video interviews from semi-finalists. Candidates will be assessed for their leadership and behavioral styles, and the firm will compare those findings with the council’s desires and outlined goals to determine the best fit. The firm also told the city during its public interview in October that it requests from candidates a “due diligence report” at the onset to prevent any surprises that could arise later.

Baker Tilly will charge $24,500, with an additional cost of $1,650 for web-based surveying. Additionally, if the hired candidate leaves the city within a year’s time, the firm says it will re-initiate the recruitment process free of cost, except for advertising expenses.

The city has worked with Baker Tilly before. In 2018, the firm reviewed the city’s Fibrant Hotwire lease along with CTC Technology & Energy, who consulted with the city on Fibrant beginning in 2016.