Montreat hires interim town administrator, explores tweak to town positions

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Ben Blackburn was voted in as the new interim town administrator by the Montreat Board of Commissioners on Feb. 10.

Ben Blackburn retired in 2018, though as he says, one never retires from public service. 

Blackburn was unanimously voted to be hired as the interim town administrator for Montreat by the Board of Commissioners on Feb. 10. He said he wants to not only work for the betterment of the town, but for the constituents as well. 

"I'm really interested and looking forward to working here with the town of Montreat," Blackburn said. 

Blackburn was hired a few days before the last week of Alex Carmichael, the previous town administrator. Carmichael accepted the position of town manager with the town of Laurel Park in Henderson County. His last day was scheduled to be Feb. 18. 

Carmichael announced his resignation at the Montreat Board of Commissioners meeting on Jan. 13. 

"It was a hard decision for me to make because I love this community, and Montreat has been very supportive of me," Carmichael said. "It was a decision we didn't take lightly, but I really do think it's the best decision for my family."

Montreat town administrator Alex Carmichael announced his resignation at the Jan. 13 Board of Commissioners meeting, thanking the town for all its support.

A native of Gaston County, Blackburn has nearly 20 years of experience as a city manager. He attended Gaston College before transferring to Appalachian State, graduating in 1985 with a degree in political science. 

In 1994, he became planning director with the town of Cherryville, his hometown. Six years later, he replaced the city manager, holding the position in multiple towns before retiring four years ago. 

Mayor Tim Helms said Land of Sky connected Blackburn with the town. Though the two had never met, Helms, also a native of Gaston County, had heard of Blackburn's reputation. 

"I highly recommended him to the commission," Helms said. 

According to Helms, as the commission looks to hire a permanent position, the board is considering altering the town's current system so as to accept a town manager rather than administrator. 

Though this would take some restructuring, Helms said having a manager would upgrade the position, allowing for more longevity and for the position to be filled by an experienced candidate.

The restructuring process would take roughly three months, according to Helms. He said the town will take as long as necessary to hire a qualified candidate after the transition has come to fruition.

As interim town administrator, Blackburn will work Tuesday-Thursday and will be available at other times of the week as needed. 

"I don't think one should ever really retire from public service," Blackburn said. "If you feel like you've got something to offer, it's beneficial."

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.