New town administrator hired in Montreat

Alex Carmichael to start on Feb. 20

Fred McCormick

Montreat’s search for a town administrator came to an end in closed session Feb. 2 when the town council voted unanimously to hire Alex Carmichael, executive assistant to one of Asheville’s two assistant city managers.

Alex Carmichael at High Five coffee house in Asheville, getting ready to go to work.

Carmichael will begin working in Montreat on Monday, Feb. 20. He was one of 18 candidates considered for the position, which was vacated in July when Montreat’s former town administrator left for a similar position with the town of Lake Lure.

The town administrator, Montreat’s top administrative position, works with elected officials to develop policies. The administrator also oversees the town's daily operations.

Al Richardson, whose 35 years in municipal government include nearly 20 years as Black Mountain’s town manager, has been serving as Montreat’s interim town administrator since July, the second time he’s served the town in that capacity. He helped guide the board through the selection of a new town administrator.

"One thing that stood out about Alex," Richardson said, "was his love for Montreat.”

Carmichael’s credentials include a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration from Appalachian State University. His experience in Asheville prepared him for the Montreat position, he said.

“I’ve seen three different managers with three different styles tackle big issues in the community in their own different ways,” Carmichael said. “That kind of training and experience has been extraordinarily helpful in my growth.”

Carmichael said he will be an administrator who serves the town board rather than someone who makes decisions for the town.

“At times that will mean stepping back from the conversation and letting the board members have their debates and discussions,” he said. “And at other times I’ll be proactively presenting options that I believe are best for the board.”

It was important for the board to be united in its selection of a new town administrator, mayor Tim Helms said. The board hasn't found much common ground in the past couple of years. Controversies over the location of a new town hall and the possible replacement of a bridge on Texas Road have created tension among the five commissioners.

Carmichael is aware of all that.

"I don’t think (the division) is insurmountable," he said. "I think the board is filled with good people who want to serve the community. I’m eager to help them do that as best I can.”

The board was also impressed by the stability Carmichael will bring to the town’s administrative office, according to Helms.

“You can tell he wants to be here,” he said. “He’s not wanting to take this job as a stepping stone.”

In fact, the position in Montreat represents precisely what Carmichael set out to do when he chose municipal government as a career path.

“I went through the program at Appalachian State with a goal of one day being a small-town administrator,” he said. “I think the position I’ve been in here in Asheville has been a great training ground for me.”

Carmichael is no stranger to Montreat. “I love the community,” he said. “I grew up in Tennessee, and when I was a youth I came to Montreat for the conferences. I’ve been coming to Montreat to visit and bring my kids now to hike the trails and everything for 20 years.”