County to fill top spots through outside search, internal promotions

STEP BY STEP: The Board of Commissioners narrowed its search for a firm to help with the selection of a county manager from eight possibilities to two during its meeting on Aug. 7. Photo by David Floyd
STEP BY STEP: The Board of Commissioners narrowed its search for a firm to help with the selection of a county manager from eight possibilities to two during its meeting on Aug. 7. Photo by David Floyd

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.

Other vacancies

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.

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About David Floyd
David Floyd is the Buncombe County reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press. Email him at dfloyd@mountainx.com.

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4 thoughts on “County to fill top spots through outside search, internal promotions

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    Compel your county commissioners to never hire another untrustworthy democrat again for the next fifty years … 150+ years of democrat domination in Buncombe Co is now quite enough. These people are our enemies.

  2. Robin Canuck

    Shouldn’t they wait until the investigation is over? They jumped the gun and simply promoted Mandy Stone, and now she’s indicted, and I’m pretty confident there are other employees who partook in the illegal activity. For example: I know Wanda didn’t cut the illegal checks or approve the illegal purchase orders (an employee did), and what about the employee(s) who made the fake I.D.’s? I would be amazed if the person(s) they are considering for the Budget Director position was oblivious to what was really going on. If so, they may just be too ignorant for that important of a position.
    They should do a full hiring process and assessment, and if the internal candidates are indeed the best, they will rise to the top for consideration. Then, if they are indicted, County officials can at least say that they earned their position through honest competition.
    Maybe honesty is too much to ask of the Commissioners. I saw just last night where Brownie Newman sent a letter to the state elections board without consulting the rest of the commissioners. It seems as though they think we’re all too stupid to catch on, but in reality, their gig is up.

    • cecil bothwell

      I suspect the Commissioners know more than we do about the investigation. Just a hunch.

      • Robin Canuck

        You would think the Commissioners would have some insight. If so, that makes the Mandy Stone hiring decision even more appalling.
        You are a journalist and author, do you really believe that the four people currently named are the only people, in an entity the size of Buncombe County government, that had a hand in all these crooked dealing?
        Also, as a former elected official, do you feel like the citizens of Buncombe County will trust an internal hiring without some context, especially after all the gushing this very Board had when defending their decision to simply promote Mandy Stone?

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