Desperately seeking...

Chapel Hill has established a Council committee to work on hiring our new town manager. What would you put in the job description?

The Town Council's selection subcommittee held its first meeting Thursday, charged with finding a replacement for Town Manager Cal Horton, whose retirement will be effective Sept. 1, ending a 16-year tenure in the post.

The manager holds the most powerful nonelected position in town government and implements council decisions.

"What we want to do today is begin the process as much as we can," Mayor Kevin Foy said to kick-start the meeting.

The selection subcommittee, which consists of council members Bill Thorpe, Ed Harrison and Bill Strom, as well as Foy, met with the town's director of human resources to discuss initial steps in the job search process, such as advertising the position and receiving applications.

The subcommittee members agreed that an advertisement for the position should be sent out before they develop a profile of the ideal candidate.
- Daily Tarheel: Town launches manager search, 3/10/06



I think the selection process should be heavily weighted toward someone who has lived here for a while.

I have quite a few ideas on both the process and the criteria, which I'll explore further sometime soon...

Here's Council's initial thoughts.

Until then, I suggest anyone interested see [pdf] how some of our fellow OPrs/citizens have already said to Council.

A radical notion: ask other local town managers to serve on the Chapel Hill selection subcommittee. That would be truly inspired in light of potentially shared services and community-related objectives.

You elected this Council didn't you? Sit back and let the democratic process unfold. They are quite capable. I don't believe they need any coaching.

So, we've went from a desire to cast a wide net for a new manager with, hopefully, a new management style to hiring some local talent, Anita and Tim, to help in the search.

It's a bit worrisome that Tim starts out by saying

...the town already functions well under Horton, so the focus will be on parsing exactly what the strengths are, along with how challenges the town faces might change in the future. He said he had probably done 1,000 or more interviews in that "organizational development" approach.

Ouch! Tim, I think the town is lagging behind in many ways because of the current manager's style - and I'm not the only citizen that thinks so....

Anita and Tim, maybe while you're parsing the supposed strengths, why don't you also catalogue the weaknesses?

Heck, shouldn't the search process start out by broadening our expectations rather than the "same old, same old"?

Why not draw up a list of skills, temperaments, experiences we need and want in someone helping us manage our rapidly
changing community rather than build upon a model that's no longer appropriate?

I think the town is being run quite well. The most important
areas are the basic services; police, fire, sanitation, public works,
bus system, engineering, and land use management.
These are run quite well. Cal's public safety
background has served the town well in these areas.

I'm sure that some will disagree, but I categorize issues
such as wireless internet and website quality as boutique
issues that, while they get a lot of coverage (not surprisingly
on the internet), they pale in importance to the above-noted basic services.

I also think the town did the right thing in hiring Tim and
Anita to build a strong list of characteristics for the
next town manager and as a byproduct to list what in
the town is going well and and what isn't. I think that
as a consequence,
we will end up with a top-quality town manager who will
remain with the town for 15 years.

I would be unhappy
if the town manager position morphed into that of university
chancellors, who now migrate from university to university,
serving each one for a half-dozen years, building very
little loyalty to any one, while always looking around
for opportunities to move on to the next
chancellorship in order to increase their
prestige and salary. The full-function manager search
process should minimize the chance for this
job transformation to be realized.

While I'd like to see us recruit a top tier manager that'll stick around long enough to see our town through its current transition, I know, at least in the business world, that top flight personnel are always at risk of being poached (look at Carrboro's concern).

Trying to hire someone based largely on expected tenure would be a terrible mistake (plus it stacks the deck towards candidates long-steeped in the current guy's problematic style of management).

To characterise the deficits in the current management as simply related to "boutique issues" is rather disingenuous Joe.

Yes, the next manager needs to know how to use technology to cost effectively deliver services. They should be experienced in modern management techniques and unafraid to utilize technology to drive cost out while increasing productivity and performance.

That's a deficit in current management.

But we also need management that will break the silo approach currently in play - to move decision-making powers down into the lower staff levels. We need management that will cultivate employee's talents throughout their tenure with the town. We need flexibility, trust and respect for both the staff and the citizenry throughout the chain of management - starting at the top.

And, for all our sakes, we need experienced management unafraid of leading a diverse work force.

Other desires? A candidate experienced in proactively addressing financial issues would be a nice change. A candidate that's guided policy creation, not dominated policy creation (through various means) would be a nice change. A candidate that's creatively willing to implement new citizen-generated policies instead of reactively stomping such efforts out would be a nice change.

And, maybe above all other criteria, our new manager should have demonstrated a long term commitment to "sunshine" in government.

Obscuring the workings of their official duties should not be a hallmark of their previous employment.

Joe, that's no boutique issue.

No longer appropriate to whom? It appears, Will, that you will have the opportunity to provide your personal input into the process about all of the many things that you are unhappy with when it comes to our town manager. Are you applying?

I think hiring Anita and Tim to do what the Council can't properly do for itself will produce a good outcome. And as one who prices out consulting projects, two people devoting a full month each to such a assessment project for $35K is a bargin. When you go cheap, you get cheap, and since they live here, neither is interested in doing anything less than quality work.

While I agree that Cal is good at managing the Town, I think his weakness is in innovation. His style is one that values stability and avoids change. We are at a point where some pretty significant change is needed in a few different ways.

For example: how we review development now that we're almost built-out, how we use technology to bring more democracy to Town processes and to enhance town services ot the public, and the perennial issue of how to make sure our town's staff is paid and treated fairly.

I also hope that Anita and Tim will look for growth opportunities as well as evaluating Cal's current strengths.

Just curious, but how many annual reviews by the various Town Council members these last 16 years brought to his attention all of these shorcomings that Will and Ruby note ?

Fred, trundle down to Town Hall and ask the clerk for copies.

Will, since this is a constant, on-going concern of yours, I just assumed that you have been monitoring it and had the copies of the reports in your files. Don't you want to share? Besides, I don't trundle up hill very well. :-)

Open and well-managed governance should be the on-going concern of every citizen, Fred ;-)

Will writes, "Open and well-managed governance should be the on-going concern of every citizen, Fred."

Yep, and so should crime, paying taxes, stopping for red lights, homelessness, poverty, disease, and a host of other things be on-going concerns.

I think that not everyone shares your viewpoint on the lack of openness or the view that we are not well managed. So my question still remains, did the various councils over the years make these poins in their performance evaluations? BTW, the Council Procedure Manual says:

Steps in the process will be:

Completion of evaluation forms by individual Council members.
Data gathering by the Mayor on comparable salaries. The Human Resources Director will provide such assistance as the Mayor may need.
Closed Session of Council to discuss evaluation results and to decide on matters for discussion with Manager and Attorney.
Closed Sessions of Council and Manager and Attorney to discuss evaluations, relationships, and priorities.
If desired, written response to Council by Manager and Attorney on evaluation matters and priorities.

So are the evaluations public documents?

Fred, you could call the town's clerk, like I did 10 minutes ago, and get the scoop on what is and is not a public record vis-a-vis personnel evaluations.

Business hours are over. Wy the games, Will. For one who talks openness, why can't you share what you learned with everyone who might be interested?

Ruby, it's really interesting to learn what you think is important, relevant or significant, given the comments you make. I take it that you think this is unimportant and worthy of playing games over?

Hey, I know! Why don't Fred and Will have a battle of wits right here on OP! It's sure to change lots of opinions and fascinate everyone.


Fred's right. If people are going to criticize policy (how personnel reviews are followed through on in this case), why shouldn't we expect them to provide documentation? If this blog is supposed to act as a quasi-journalistic vehicle, why shouldn't we expect documentation?

"Fred, you could call the town's clerk, like I did 10 minutes ago, and get the scoop on what is and is not a public record vis-a-vis personnel evaluations."

pretty weird 'tude, dude -- esp. from someone who advocated openness and sharing-of-information while running for town council.


And Ruby -

Once again, you prove your blog-boss bias by coming down on those who don't always march to your own drumroll (in this case, Fred Black) instead of hammering homeboy WillR for his infantile response to Fred's querry.

As I've said before, when I sign my own name I'm speaking for my own biased self, not as The Editor. You should try it sometime, "Steve S."

Terri, OP has never made any claim to be journalistic in any way shape or form. People who expect OP to be something it's not will continue to be disappointed. I suggest that people who aren't interested in my opinions on local issues should maybe not be reading this blog, but I'm not about to tell you what to do. There are certainly plenty of alternatives.

"Laura asked a good question about “Ruby as participant” vs. “Ruby as mediator.” I generally post as “Editor” when I am speaking officially for the site, but lately the line has blurred. I felt that people weren't observing the distinction and so I stopped as well. I can go back to being more consistent about that if y'all find it helpful.

Comment at 5:26pm 2/27/2006 by Ruby Sinreich"

When are and when aren't you?

Not to add to the tiresome discussion but I was trying to make the point that Fred could do his own research.

Fred and Steve S. (not that S. ;-) ) like to weigh in on OP a bit but, aside from Fred and the AOPA issue, they don't seem to provide that much detail.

If you review my several years worth of comments on OP, I believe my record of providing detail and either linking or citing references is quite good.

FYI, my opinion on the current managers performance is based on many factors - a number that I've cited (throughout several years, many posts on OP). Please feel free to review them at your leisure.

From's "mission statement:"

" The purpose of this website is to encourage residents of Orange County, NC to get involved in their community by offering education and perspectives on local and regional issues. "

May not be journalistic--but it DOES seem education is part of the mix.

Just sayin'.


From the same mission statement you just quoted, Melanie: "Everything here is explicitly biased toward the authors' and editors' points of view. Take that as you like." Is that not clear?


Melanie- glad to see you post. Lemme translate just in case you misunderstood:

"It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." Is that not clear??

On of the things that seem to happen to people who have spent some time down on the Gulf Coast working on Hurricane Katrina relief efforts is that you return to your community with a different attitude and a somewhat different outlook. After being with people who have every reason to be angry at their various levels of governments for not doing what they should have, you actually meet people full of optimism, faith, hope, and high spirits about the future. Their spunk is contagious and you truly feel it. Comparatively, that experience makes what might have been major issues at home nothing more than minor irritants. You also quickly come to appreciate how we can so easily undervalue all that we have here, and especially those in this community who serve us so well. Yep, I'll say it – we are flat spoiled and we don't mind showing it.

I guess that it is human nature then that pushes us to desire perfection from our public servants. For the same reasons, we are quick with the criticisms and put-downs. And true to human nature, many know how to do everyone else's job better than the job holders are doing it. As one whom tries to stay grounded in the real world, my experiences with our Manager have always been very positive. We didn't always agree on everything, but that's life. In over five years of chairing a Town board and a committee, I never experienced the problems that Will and Ruby seemed to have had. Fair enough, their experiences were obviously different and of course they should report their opinions. But when it's all said and done, the how matters a lot more than the what, especially in commenting on personnel matters.

I hope those with opinions and ideas on the manager selection will participate and provide input to the consultants and the members of the Council. I think doing so will make for a better outcome.

And Will, I'm not sure what you meant about me providing details about AOPA, or not providing details about anything else, but please know that I'm not interested in trying to fit any templates that you might personally have.


I grew up in a factory town in the northeast which had most of the factories close down and where less than half of the high school students went on to college. I also lived in south Florida and witnessed the beginning of its rapid, poorly-planned and poorly regulated growth. And I lived in California at a time (similar to now) when property values (and, unfortunaltely, other costs) were escalating at double digit rates each year.

As you said - we are spoiled. Thanks for reminding us how lucky we are to live here and how terribly fortunate we are to not have experienced the kinds of losses that others, such as those on the Gulf coast, have had to endure.


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.