City Council seeks proposals from search firms to help find new City Manager | Local News


City Council spent just over an hour and a half of a special business meeting called to discuss and reach consensus on what to expect in the search for a future City Manager.

The board has agreed to send requests for proposals to three national recruiting firms and one firm in North Carolina.

The companies are Chicago-based Baker Tilly; GovHR USA, based in Chicago; POLIHIRE, based in Washington, DC; and Chapel Hill-based Development Associates.

The plan is to bring in company representatives at some point to be interviewed by the board to help the panel decide which company to choose.

The council is looking to find a successor to Rochelle Small-Toney, who on Jan. 20 announced her retirement after serving as city manager since 2017.

Acting City Manager Peter Varney gathered information ahead of the convened special business meeting, held on February 28, from the seven council members and Mayor Sandy Roberson.

The information included a long list of what they thought were basic skills in the search for the future city manager.

After discussion at the start of the special working session called, the panel narrowed down the list of core competencies, the main four being integrity; diversity, equity and inclusion; human resource management and staff effectiveness; and functional and operational expertise in planning/measurement/performance management and quality assurance.

As for integrity, Varney said: “Virtually everyone says it’s very, very, very, very important.”

Roberson, who is the managing partner of a firm, said that from his perspective in terms of looking for leadership, he thinks the most important things are integrity and functional and operational expertise in planning.

“And to the extent that someone can develop a team, all the other functions fall into place,” Roberson said.

Roberson also said he would have to give high marks to diversity, equity, and inclusion, just as a filter, to be able to build that team and craft those policies.

Councilor Lige Daughtridge said: “I would have to agree with the Mayor on team building because it’s all about human resources and staff efficiency because without a good team you can’t not run the city.”

Daughtridge specifically pointed out that because one person cannot be expected to know everything, that person needs to be a strong team or work with the existing team.

He quoted the old adage, “You are only as good as your weakest link.”

Councilman Richard Joyner focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Every time you talk about building a team, every time you talk about shared wealth, every time you look at these processes, you ask yourself: where is the diversity? Where is the fairness? And where is the inclusion? said Joyner. “And if we’re honest with ourselves and look at our background, we might see huge gaping walls, holes that weren’t part of our training. And it’s a fight. »

Councilman Reuben Blackwell said one of the things he thinks is really clear “is that we want evidence of those traits.”

“We need proof of skill and perspective – and someone who isn’t afraid to be brave from our point of view, because often when you have to make tough decisions and do things that go to against the status quo, it creates pushback from people who don’t want to be taken away from their point of view or their privileges,” Blackwell said.

“And it’s very important, from my perspective, that a person is able to maintain perspective without sacrificing the ability to work with everyone — and evidence of that,” Blackwell said.

Moments later, Blackwell also clarified what he sees as a need to ensure anyone entering has both clear management skills and an understanding of Rocky Mount’s utility business, which includes both electricity and natural gas services.

During the discussion, Councilor WB Bullock spoke about what he sees as the importance of staff efficiency, noting that over the years the municipality would have this particular department here and this particular department there.

“They worked together but they didn’t share with anyone else, it shows in a lot of cases,” Bullock said.

Bullock also expressed concern about having a situation where a staff member can’t get their foot in the door because that department’s director or chief of staff is stubborn.

He also said he was referring to someone who said, “Hey, that’s not my department. You need to see her” or “you need to see him”.

The discussion focused on enumerating the challenges ahead.

Varney said the common comments he received ahead of the panel were about, “How can we restore trust, credibility and confidence in the workings of city government?”

After Varney showed more comments he received ahead of time, he said, “I’m hesitant about that,” but said many said the challenge was race and race relations.

Varney said he didn’t use the word race when listing the challenges because he assumed the way he was trying to translate it was, it has to do with how to build consensus and a sense of community.

Joyner said, “I think for me there’s no harm in not using it, but when you look at the equity, diversity and inclusion process, it indicates race.”

Blackwell noted that the town of Rocky Mount received the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Award last fall for tackling difficult data issues.

“And the data indicates that inequality and disparity are tied to race and location,” Blackwell said. “So when you look at the data, out of 100 counties in North Carolina, Edgecombe County is number 99 in health. Nash County is number 76 in health.

He said that when one travels to the sub-communities on the Edgecombe and Nash sides of town, one finds black people whose quality of health, quality of life, household income and level of education are less good.

Blackwell made it clear that he heard what was being said about not letting race dominate conservation.

“I don’t look at anyone who can’t solve problems — and sometimes problems are uncomfortable,” he said. “They don’t make us feel good, but the main thing is that it’s true.”

He also said he believes the “truth” is what the statistics say.

“Can someone tell me that’s not true?” If it’s not true, then OK – but if it’s true, how do you pretend it doesn’t exist? ” He asked.

Daughtridge made it clear that he believed he agreed with what everyone was saying: it must be recognized that when one has data, the majority of Rocky Mount is mostly made up of minorities.

“And there’s a reason for that, too,” Blackwell said. “So it’s not just about watching today. It took hundreds of years to get to where we are.

“That’s a big point,” Bullock said.

Bullock said while this can’t be completely changed overnight, people need to be on board.

“One or two people can’t do it,” Bullock said. “And that’s why you have to have an equity perspective.”

Blackwell has indicated that he thinks this is a moving target that cannot be fixed in one administration or perhaps even an entire generation.

“But what we can do is intentionally move the conversation forward,” Blackwell said.

Roberson made it clear that he would support the application of the concept of diversity, equity and inclusion and, parenthetically, “not be afraid to say ‘race’ – and not be afraid to call it what ‘it is and to define what it can be.”

Developmental Associates was brought in to conduct both the research that led to the elevation of then-deputy city manager Charles Penny to city manager in 2010 and the hiring of Small-Toney.

Councilor Chris Miller said she hopes the municipality will try Developmental Associates again in part because she likes the way the company does an emotional and intellectual assessment of applicants’ identities.

Blackwell said that regardless of the company chosen, it would be great to have a larger and more diverse candidate pool.


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