NCACC will assist Gates County in manager search

Published 2:52 pm Friday, February 10, 2023

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GATESVILLE – The Gates County Board of Commissioners have solicited help in searching for their next manager.

At a special called meeting here last week, the board approved a motion to partner with the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) who will provide assistance in a comprehensive search and recruitment process.

Neil Emory, Outreach Associate with the NCACC, met with Gates County’s elected leaders at the Jan. 31 meeting where he explained, in full detail, what type of assistance the state association offered.

Tim Wilson, Gates County’s current manager, has resigned effective Feb. 10. The county has hired former Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer as the interim manager for a six-month period while they search for a new leader.

“Part of the NCACC’s mission is to assist counties in transition with management. We assist at a level of whatever the county may choose. We do not have a one plan fits all method,” Emory said, adding that the NCACC does not charge a fee for that assistance.

“We have a lot on our plate and we want to do this right,” noted Gates County Board of Commissioners chair Dr. Althea Riddick. “We don’t have the time to do this justice. We believe you and your team will do it justice. We will remain engaged in the process throughout the search of a new county manager.”

At the top of his 30-minute presentation, Emory stressed that the commissioners need to take whatever time is necessary to ensure that they make the correct hire.

“I’ve seen county boards rush into selecting a county manager; that’s the last thing you need to do,” Emory cautioned. “You need to have a formal process that leads you to the person who is best suited for the needs of the board. A part of that process is having a strong interim manager to help lead you through the process. You’ve made a great step with that through your decision this evening [hiring Scott Sauer].”

Emory made other suggestions as the local board worked their way through the hiring process, to include maintaining

strong and consistent leadership throughout the process and to keep the county citizens informed through the process.

Additionally, he encouraged the development and organization of a coordinated recruitment plan. He reminded when the commissioners interview the candidates, they need to remember they’re being interviewed as well.

“These candidates are making life choices, sometimes not just for them, but also for their families. They want to knows they are coming into a positive environment,” Emory stressed.

He also suggested that the board needs to develop a timetable to complete the application, interview, and hiring process.

“You need to know what you expect from your new manager. All of you need to have that discussion. Make sure you have a vision for your new manager,” Emory noted.

He also said education and experience matter when it comes to selecting a new manager.

“Not all county managers perform the same jobs,” Emory said. “It depends on what resources the county has. Some have staff to handle different managerial duties. Others may be the county manager and also serve as the finance officer.”

Additionally, Emory said not to automatically rule out young managers.

“I was only 24 years old when I was hired as the manager in Caswell County,” he recalled. “It was great for me. I think they taught me a lot more than I taught them, but at the end of the day it was a great experience for all of us.”

Emory said advertising the opening can include newspaper ads, but also suggested digital ads on the NCACC website, the National City and County Government website, and the League of Municipalities website.

He suggested that the ad needs to include a brief statement on what the county is looking for in a new manager.

“You may consider not requiring your manager to live here in the county and I would also recommend not to box yourself in on a starting salary,” Emory stated.

He suggested that each commissioner needs to individually study each and every application.

“Look over the entire pool of applicants because you are going to eventually cast a vote for one of them,” Emory said. “Build a list of who you see as the strongest candidates and then come together as a board for discussion and see how well those lists match up. From there you can narrow the list to a pool of applicants you wish to bring in for interviews.”

He also recommended keeping the names of the applicants confidential right up until the point the final candidate agrees to accept the job.

“They are interested in your position, but remember that some may be currently drawing a paycheck from another city or county,” Emory noted. “Maintaining confidentiality throughout the process will gain you a list of good candidates.

“And be willing to negotiate when it comes to salary and benefits,” he added.

Emory said the NCACC offers assistance in drafting the employment ad, direction on where to advertise, and providing sample questions to use during the interview process. In some cases, the NCACC will help county boards with looking over the applications and helping determine which are the strongest candidates to interview.

“However, we do not conduct those interviews, that is the board’s role,” Emory said. “Other than that, we’ll help however you want us to help.”

“We want it all,” said Riddick. “We have a daily grind, a lot of time-sensitive projects that we need to stay focused on. So, as much as you can do to take off our plate will greatly help us.”

Riddick said the first step is to decide when to begin the process.

“We’re not in an immediate rush, but we’ve hired Mr. Sauer to a six-month contract,” Riddick noted. “So we as a board need to develop a timetable from start to finish and finish by August.”

On a motion from Commissioner Emily Truman and a second from vice chair Jonathan Craddock, the board approved a motion for Gates County to partner with Emory and the NCACC to assist with the search for a new county manager.

Emory said he could begin that process by drafting an employment ad as well as sending a list of interview questions.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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