Black Mountain begins search process for town manager

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News|USA TODAY NETWORKS
Hartwell Wright of the N.C. League of Municipalities gives a presentation to Black Mountain elected officials on June 21 regarding the process of searching for a new town manager.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Town officials began searching for a new town manager in earnest June 21.

A presentation by the N.C. League of Municipalities to the mayor and board of aldermen at a special called meeting provided insight into the process.

“Hiring a manager is the most important decision this board will make,” said Hartwell Wright, the presenter and human resources consultant with the league, a service and advocacy organization for nearly every municipality in the state.

Former town manager Matt Settlemyer, hired in 2012 after his predecessor Marcy Onieal stepped down in 2011, resigned May 22.

Black Mountain hires former DA Ron Moore as interim manager 

Land of Sky Regional Council executive director Justin Hembree stepped into the role until officials could name an interim manager. On June 18, former Buncombe County district attorney Ron Moore, now the town attorney for Hot Springs, began serving as the interim manager.

At the called meeting, Mayor Don Collins said the board was hopeful the league could provide “help with the search.”

The N.C. League of Municipalities provides members like Black Mountain with a variety of resources, such as finding new administrators. Wright told the board that a three-step process for finding a permanent town manager would likely take around six months.

“Number one is the recruiting, cast your net as wide as you can,” Wright said. “Second is the screening process that you’ll use to vet and assess the candidates and their skills. The third piece is hiring one.”

Wright suggested that the board and mayor meet to develop a profile for an ideal candidate.

The application process should take around two months, according to Wright, and just as long to screen the candidates and complete the interview process. It could then take two more months for the selected candidate to give proper notice to his or her current employer. 

"That time frame may sound unreasonable to a lot of people, particularly citizens who have worked in corporations when they have a manager making decisions and then it's over with," Wright said. "It has to be done a little differently in government than it does in private corporations."

Making the best choice should be the top priority, Wright said. 

"I don't make suggestions, but let me encourage you to take as long as you need," he said. "It's more important that you get the right person than it is to speed through the process just to say you accomplished it in the time you set."

According to a survey conducted by the league, which took only populations of municipalities into account, the base salary for the position in a town the size of Black Mountain is $95,000-$105,000 per year. 

Three of the five aldermen — Carlos Showers, Ryan Stone and Vice Mayor Maggie Tuttle — were on the board during the 2012 search. Collins, elected mayor last year, was also an alderman at the time. 

Harris, appointed to the board in 2013 and elected in 2015, said the board and mayor would go through the process without hiring an outside agency. Stone concurred. 

"I have confidence in everybody up here," Stone said. "I don't feel like we need a search firm to come in and assist us."

During their search for the new town manager, the board will hold special called meetings at 8:30 a.m. each Thursday, with the exception of July 5, beginning June 28.