Montreat hires Jason Burrell as first full-time town manager

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Jason Burrell, originally from Candler, has been named the town of Montreat's first full-time town manager.

The town of Montreat has hired a new town manager, Jason Burrell.

Burrell will be Montreat’s first full-time town manager after the Board of Commissioners voted to move to a council-manager form of government from a mayor-council system in May of last year.

He will replace interim town manager Ben Blackburn, who was hired as interim town administrator in February 2022 before the town switched government models.

In announcing Burrell as the new town manager at the March 9 Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Jane Alexander said he would be paid $90,000 a year.

More:Jason Burrell named new Montreat town manager

A Candler native, Burrell is a graduate of Western Carolina University. He graduated with an undergraduate political science degree and then returned for his master’s in public administration.

He said he has been working in local government for 15 years, first in Warsaw, North Carolina, as town manager for nearly four years.

From Warsaw, Burrell moved to Canton, where he first served as assistant town manager before becoming the town manager. He was in Canton from 2009 until 2021.

Burrell said he was looking for something different but wanted to stay on the western side of the state as his family and his wife’s family still live in the area.

“I definitely wanted a change of pace,” Burrell said. “Montreat’s just a beautiful community. It’s a very close-knit community from what I understand. … It’s just a great opportunity to lead them in the directions that they want to be led and assist them on what their goals and visions are for the community.”

Burrell said he brings not only experience to the role of town manager, but also contacts and connections around the county and surrounding area.

“I think the biggest thing I bring to the town of Montreat is the knowledge in an array of different areas,” Burrell said. “Whether it’s infrastructure, whether it’s recreation, whether it’s just community outreach.”

Montreat Mayor Tim Helms agreed and said Burrell is well-qualified for the position based on the leadership roles he has held in the past.

“He brings a lot of experience, which includes contacts in the community,” Helms said. “We’re just tickled to death to finally have a town manager.”

Burrell said he has been welcomed warmly by both the board and town residents.

He said he has been impressed with the way the town operates, and what he called the efficiency of the town played a part in his accepting the job.

“That’s something you weigh in your decision to take a job, is the employee base and how everybody feels about that,” Burrell said. “They are gung-ho on the efficiency and effectiveness of their employees, and that just makes you feel comfortable going into a new position. It’s a testament to the community itself.”

Burrell said he has been working closely with Blackburn to get to know more about the town and to make the transition smooth.

“He’s a phenomenal manager,” Burrell said. “He knows all kind of nuances of how this community works, but also too having the engagement of the council. They really want Montreat to be something special, and it is. It’s a gem in Western North Carolina.”

Burrell said he is looking forward to working with the board and town staff, as well as with other entities such as Montreat College and county organizations. He said he hopes these connections lead to grants for town improvement.  

“All I do is work and digest information,” Burrell said. “I’m hoping I can be a great addition to the community because I really have been really impressed by everybody in the community. I think it’s going to be a lot of partnership.”