AHOSKIE – The search for a permanent replacement for retired Town Manager Tony Hammond continued here this past weekend, but not without some new developments.
Hal Mason, who had just been appointed as interim Town Manager two weeks ago, abruptly resigned this past weekend. A 40-year civic and government representative, Mason retired to Garner, near Raleigh, and came to Ahoskie recommended by the Local Government Commission (LGC). After attending a retreat with the Town Council last weekend, he unexpectedly submitted his resignation on Friday according to Mayor Jimmie Rowe.
“I think it was a combination of the situation and the distance,” said Rowe in an interview on Monday. “He was already retired and his last interim Town Manager’s job was in Knightdale just 15 minutes from his house.”
Rowe says Mason called him late Friday and he conveyed the news to the other Council members.
“He was coming all the way down here two or three days a week and I think he just really wasn’t ready for that,” the Mayor continued.
Rowe says just as the LGC aided the town in finding Mason, they have recommended another name, Ralph Clark, who currently resides in New Bern and who, like Mason, spent time as town manager in another Triangle town: Clayton.
“He should be here sometime next week,” said Rowe.
Rowe also said Council held first-round interviews with eight applicants for the full-time Town Manager’s post this past weekend.
“We’re just in the process of sorting them out,” he said.
Rowe added that the number has now been reduced to three candidates and that they will be called back for second interviews, but that neither he nor council has a date set for a final announcement.
“They are all in government,” Rowe explained. “The earliest they would start here would probably be in July.”
The announcement of Hammond’s retirement in March came amidst a 2015-16 audit report of the town’s finances that revealed in January that Ahoskie’s unassigned General Fund had fallen to minus $26,008; this after the 2014-15 audit showed the General Fund was in the black by as much as $1,008,379.
After reviewing the current budget and submitting recommendations for 10 percent cuts by all the town’s department heads, as well as other budget cuts that were found, the Council passed three proposed budget amendments that would help stabilize the deficit by decreasing both the town’s revenues and expenditures by roughly $850,000.