The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners officially got the search for a new county manager underway Thursday evening during a work session to discuss the process in more detail.
Current County Manager George Wood, who has served in the position since 2008, announced on April 15 his plans to retire at the end of June.
David Nicholson, outreach associate with the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, was on hand for the meeting to lead the discussion and help plan the search, beginning with the task of creating a job profile with which to weigh potential applicants.
Through his work with the NCACC, Nicholson has helped coordinate similar searches for various counties in the western portion of the state. Though he will not be involved with the actual interviews, he will lend his services in helping to narrow down ideal candidates for the job.
“It is an important decision,” he said of the board’s task to find its top administrator.
As the county promptly announced the vacancy a few days after Wood made his retirement plans known, Nicholson said it is “ahead of the game.” He’s already fielded some interest in the position, with a handful of applications and resumes received by Clerk to the Board Amy Atkins.
He encouraged commissioners to spread the news of the opening through word-of-mouth and professional organizations.
However, due to it being the middle of “budget time,” he warned that applications may be slow to come in at first.
To create a profile for the position, Nicholson had commissioners individually rank skills from a prepared list, with a few of their own added, to then determine what they as a group consider the most important for candidates to have.
The results indicated that the board places a strong emphasis on a candidate’s education, including having both a master’s degree and being credentialed. Commissioner Jim Klein noted that the latter shows that a person is “committed to the field” and has gone “above and beyond.”
Commissioners would also like to see applicants have more than four years of experience as, preferably, a county manager or in a top-management position.
In terms of skills, the board’s ideal county manager will have excellent administrative capabilities, while also being adept at handling finance and budgetary issues, oral presentations and building a strong team of employees.
Chairman Alex Patton particularly stressed the need for a candidate to have the ability to put a budget together.
Nicholson said their rankings show that they want a “good, solid manager,” as opposed to a specialist in a certain field, such as infrastructure, utilities, land-use planning or economic development.
“If I don’t know something in my business, I hire somebody that does,” Patton said.
The board also touched on the importance of personal characteristics, attributes and values, as well as political and fiscal ideology, playing a role in their eventual decision.
The work session concluded with a discussion of the timeline, with commissioners expecting a list of applicants and update on the search process at their June 3 meeting and interviews potentially conducted later that month.
While both Nicholson, and potentially Wood himself, may be sought for their input, the board will make the ultimate decision.
“It’s up to the five of us to hire the next county manager,” Patton said.