The search for our next County Manager is underway and input from the public is an important part of the process. We held three community input sessions. Your comments have been compiled and will be passed along to the search firm as part of an overall profile of desirable skills and characteristics. Stay tuned here for updates from the search.
On Thursday, Aug. 30, Commissioners Joe Belcher and Robert Pressley, and Interim County Manager George Wood hosted an input session at A-B Tech. Commissioner Al Whitesides was also in attendance.
Ten community members attended the meeting and this is the feedback we received:
M - Transparency, accountability
O - 1) Focus on cultivating an economy on responsible tourism - current model is unsustainable. Create a balance for call BC home and those who don’t. 2) Environmental responsibility. 3) Create opportunities for locals to be involved in decision making.
K - Committed to receiving and utilizing public input. Understanding of racial equality and history. They need to value and understand our local community and not just tourists. We need a CM with a heart - someone who cares about us, who works with us, and for us - to create a healthier community, and not just a wealthier one. Need a CM who is going to interpret their responsibilities for everyone, not just the wealthy.
MPW - CM who understands how to communicate with the community. Who can go to Commissioners in planning sessions with community recommendations. CM who listens to community and not developers. Someone nonpartisan. Someone who will listen to multiple voices around the community. Someone who can communicate their stance and listen to other stances. Fairness. Someone who can advocate for different areas of the county. Someone who will talk and listen to the people. Someone who can work efficiently, care about the employees who work for BC, and who is fair with distribution choices, and not be scared to tell commissioners if something isn’t fair - and be fair to the people they work with.
T - Someone who is financial-based. CM needs to know how every working part of the county operates. SOmeone willing to put the extra hours in, with a proven track record of fixing budgets. Someone who needs to know what happens and is ready for that.
C - someone like Mr. Wood
Someone who knows how to make something out of nothing. Someone not salary-oriented. Someone ruled by people instead of money.
(not Facebook - but online comment) Support for water/sewer study so that the county can be the applicant for federal grants to expand MSD in Candler. 2) Support for Parks and Rec department to build/complete projects at Enka Campus joining the soccer fields/softball fields to include Enka Heritage Trail. 3) Partnership (or a push) with the City to offer public transportation to the city line which happens to be at the Enka red light. 4) For my manager to understand he/she has a greater responsibility to the unincorporated parts of the County. These are the parts that don’t have representation by way of towns or alderman. If the manager isn’t looking out for these parts of the county, then no one is.
Need a leader that places integrity, character, and duty to the community above partisanship, special interests or personal gain. Leadership with honesty, poise and grace is a must, and far more important than prior experience or personal/political connections.
On Monday, Aug. 27, Commission Chair Brownie Newman, Commissioners Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Al Whitesides and Interim County Manager George Wood hosted an input session at the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center.
16 community members attended the meeting and this is the feedback we received:
JQ:A - what we need is a CM who has the skills to interact with the Board and to hire and empower a staff that will work together collaboratively to do the citizens work in this community. Emphasize importance of collaboration - get rid of silos, Can’t have department heads working in isolation. Staff meetings that cross government agencies. Transparency - now more than ever - we must continue it - and have CM that can demonstrate their ability to be transparent with the community all the time. Trust is important. A CM who has a resume that speaks to their integrity as well as their effectiveness. Someone who aspires to be a civic manager. Someone to work with our engaged and active community. Don’t settle. We need someone who is going to hire effective managers and empower them, delegate authority to them, to do the work of the community.
EA - The next CM - there should be a cap on how much control that they can have. THere should be more checks and balance. If that comes more from County Commissioners to be more focus on how much control CM happens - that needs to happen. More teamwork. If one person is not part of the team (based on their power - not a rulership) we need to move away from that. A lot of weight is on CM shoulders - we need transparency, teamwork, delegating power, so everyone works together. More accountability. Someone who can work under those conditions.
MH:A - Unsure if you’re ready to hire a CM. Never met CM (someone who gets out into the community). Suggest that you do more transparency (website: salaries). Question salary amount. Someone compassionate and open about community.
LGH - Honest, integrity, who has experience, MPA, or significant amount of experience. The most important thing is we need someone who has public service at their heart - who is honest and willing to work hard. We have to do better with hiring someone who is honest and then watch over them.
A CM who doesn’t rule by fear and intimidation - it takes a special leader to undo the culture of the organization from what it was. We need someone who comes in and knows from day one “we have to change this entire place, the way people think, the way people look at doing their jobs.”
TM - Importance in changing the culture. Promote interdepartmental/community cooperation. Have a macro view of the community.
BM - Someone who is totally qualified - willing to step in and say “I want to see this community/area - and the growth of it.” Someone who promotes communicating and working together with the community. Get someone from the outside - unbiased input about our area. With a huge population of transplants - we want someone who can keep our community base - and someone who can protect us and help us do better. Make sure they care about the community and the people. Transparency is the most important thing - and communication.
GS - Someone who can change the atmosphere from intimidation. Someone that will protect the taxpayers and run an operation with the leadership to make sure that nothing underhanded is going on. Someone who can run the county successfully and save the taxpayers money.
JP:W - The next CM should have an open-door policy and who is willing to meet with members of the public. Find a CM and open their doors to be more open to the “common people.”
J - It’s hard to know what the next CM will do till you hire them.
What will the deciding factor be for the next CM? (for Commissioners?)
Looking for someone with community service - how do they spend their time?
Avoid nepotism - make sure they have a history of not hiring friends/relatives
What oversight changes are you going to make so what the former county manager and her friends did won’t happen again?
On Thursday, Aug. 23, Commissioners Mike Fryar, Ellen Frost, and Interim County Manager George Wood hosted an input session at the Weaverville Town Hall. Commissioners Al Whitesides, Joe Belcher and Robert Pressley were also in attendance.
Ten community members attended the meeting and this is the feedback we received:
This has to do with finances, I would like to see someone who wants to have the board of elections in a building which the county owns. The building where it is now is not only inaccessible to anyone without a car - but it costs taxpayers 8k a month to a private company that leases government buildings all over the South. So we’re getting into 80k a year and that doesn’t count storage. Also, Wanda Greene’s name is on the contract. My biggest thing in life is voter turnout. 30 year public school teacher. Importance of civics education. Voter ID discussion - want an easier time for voters to vote - to get to the board of elections. This will also help save money.
The County Commissioners/people in Gov. they need to pay attention to poor folks who can’t even cross the street in time - without being worried of getting hit by a car in that location. Discussing 35 Woodfin - which was accessible to just about everyone. Who said it would be alright to put it on Asheland Ave. (Election Services)? This is a nonpartisan issue. Question about how long the lease.
What oversight does the County Commission have over the County Manager? Honesty is important in the next County Manager. How do you screen for honesty and integrity?
A.D./TCW - There is a potential lack of understanding of how government works - if we look at the 450mil+ budget - the County is a corporation - Council/Commissioners are the board of directors, and taxpayers are the stockholders. We hold stock and elect commissioners to be on the board. Problem 1) it’s a popularity contest. They may not be qualified. We’re looking for a CEO - financial background - without a functioning strong board - it doesn’t matter who you hire. Whether it’s someone from private sector (doesn’t have to be public sector) - You don’t have to hire a finance expert again. You don’t want to be “tricked” by another “finance director.” There should be a good balance on the board for decision making - so a manager who can reach across party lines.(question about County benefits for transparency)
1) Having no prior connection with the government (county) is going to be positive (normally the opposite is true), however here - given the cloud of distrust - someone not having prior contact is a plus. 2) proven track record of working with Democrats and Republicans. Having both sides think they lean to the “other” side. 3) Find someone who can thread the needle between law enforcement and the community - and have both sides feel like they were both listened to. 4) Someone who is able to reach out to small towns (like Weaverville and Black Mountain - it’s not just Asheville and Buncombe County) make them feel like more of a part of Buncombe County.
There needs to be a balance of power between Commissioners and the County Manager. Agree with “maybe we should look with someone who is a very different kind of person.” Not connected previous. With government being corrupt now, even the word “expert” has become a bad word.
Someone with military experience
WN - It’s about honesty, integrity, and having the guts to say “something doesn’t feel right.” Courage. Mutual respect - respect for the board (and the Board has to respect the Manager). Communication is important (being able to hear each other). Search firm is expensive. Looking for someone who can be unbiased, have someone with quantifiable data that shows they did well at their previous job.
SPF/WTC - Manager who encourages greater collaboration between local governments. When big projects come up - it will be nice to work collaboratively with the County Manager.
Concern for adequate local funding for our public schools and community college, effective, transparent administration of public funds, effective administration of planning for future growth and land use, protection of clean air and water, listening to the needs of our children and families, etc.
Check back here for updates on the process as we move forward.
Sept. 10 Commissioners Workshop: Department Head Input for County Manager qualifications
Commissioners Meeting on County Manager Search Firm Presentation