NEWS

Montreat approves changing town charter to council-manager system of government

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Montreat  commissioner Kitty Fouche made the motion to amend the town charter to adopt a council-manger form of government May 9.

In a move designed to take politics out of day-to-day operations, Montreat approved amending the town charter May 9 to adopt a council-manager form of government rather than the mayor-council system formerly in place.

The motion was made by commissioner Kitty Fouche and approved unanimously by the Board of Commissioners.

"I move to adopt an ordinance amending the charter of the town of Montreat to adopt a council-manager form of government," Fouche said.

In the previous mayor-council system, all town staff, including the town administrator, report to the mayor. In Montreat, the mayor handed all day-to-day responsibilities to the town administrator, though legally, all staff still report to the mayor.

With the new form of government, the town will operate more similarly to a business, with all staff reporting to the town manager who then reports to the board. The manager will be responsible for hiring and releasing all staff. 

According to the town, in the search for a permanent town administrator, a town manager would be hired instead.

"Right now, if I were influenced politically, I could steer a lot of things the way the government is set up now, but I don't do that," Mayor Tim Helms said in May. "The previous mayor didn't do that."

Helms explained that the two forms of government are not dissimilar and the town already functions nearly identically in both systems.

In a statement from the town, Montreat staff said the change came from a desire to remove politics form day-to-day operations. With the council-manager form, the manager combines the political leadership of the board with managerial experience.

Additionally, by changing to council-manager, town staff hope to appeal more in the realm of administrator recruitment and retention. Staff say this should result in the town recruiting a more experienced manager.

The change to council-manager takes the politics out of Montreat's day-to-day operations by handing responsibilities to the town manager.

"The mayor will continue to be a voting member of the town council, preside at council meetings, represent Montreat in intergovernmental relationships, facilitate communication and understanding between the council and the town manager and assist the council in setting goals and advocating policy decisions, among other things," read the town's statement.

The town estimates that this change may cost more money to hire an experienced manager but could potentially save money in the long run through reducing operating expenses under experienced management.

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.