Even as elected officials and county staff digested word of new indictments of former county employees released less than four hours before the regular meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on Aug. 7, efforts to select a new county manager continued to move ahead.
Noting the importance of the decision, board Chair Brownie Newman pointed out, “the county manager is the person who runs this large organization day to day.”
The board plans to hire a search firm to identify finalists for the county manager position, a step it didn’t take in promoting former County Manager Mandy Stone to the job last year.
Stone served in the role for a year after commissioners tapped her to replace former County Manager Wanda Greene, but she abruptly left the position in June. Now she, along with Jon Creighton, former planning director and assistant county manager, and Greene, stand accused of accepting kickbacks for county construction contracts.
Commissioners narrowed the list of potential search firms to Slavin Management Consultants and The Mercer Group.
Interim County Manager George Wood said the guaranteed price for Slavin Management Consultants would not exceed $23,350.75 and the guaranteed price for The Mercer Group would not exceed $32,500. Wood previously told commissioners a search firm would likely charge about $80,000.
Wood said Slavin Management Consultants guaranteed that if the person hired for the position left before completing two years of employment, the firm would redo the search at no additional charge.
“I think there’s a soberness of tone that you might detect as we talk about this just because of how much is at stake,” said Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who was a member of the committee that judged the search firm applications. “We need to make sure we do this right and do this in a way that honors the great trust that’s placed in us.”
The board will conduct interviews with the search firms during a public meeting at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 21 in the third floor conference room at 200 College St. in downtown Asheville.
In addition to the county manager position, Buncombe County is also working to fill holes left by the recent departures of former Human Resources Director Lisa Eby, former Budget Director Diane Price and former Finance Director Tim Flora.
“Let’s just say we’ve had a few openings here,” Wood said.
According to Wood, the county plans to fill the budget director position through an internal promotion. He anticipates interviews will be conducted next week. “We have several qualified candidates, so we’ve only opened that up internally,” he said.
The county also plans to hire its new communications director from within, Wood said, noting that the county has three qualified candidates. Those interviews will also be conducted next week.
Because the finance director reports to both the county manager and the Board of Commissioners, a joint selection process is underway. Commissioners Beach-Ferrara, Al Whitesides and Joe Belcher have been reviewing applications, and the full board will interview the shortlist of candidates they develop. Wood said commissioners would discuss finance director candidates during a closed session after the regular meeting.