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Green Puts On Blue Suit To Get The Gold
SCOTT D. YOST
July 3, 2014
Merle Green, the head of Guilford County’s public health services, won’t say whether she’s an applicant for the new job of director of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
However, on Wednesday, June 25, when it was time for County Manager Marty Lawing and his selection team to begin interviewing candidates, Green walked into the Old Guilford County Court House and into the first-floor Blue Room where the interviews were being conducted.
As soon as the Rhino Times reporter arrived that morning, before the interview sessions started, two security officers escorted the reporter a good distance down the hall, but there’s no way to get into the Blue Room without being seen from the hallway. And a few minutes later Green walked in, dressed to the nines in a light blue business suit, sporting a new hairdo and a very focused look on her face. Green entered the Blue Room for a moment, and then was escorted to a holding room across the hall, where she waited about five minutes before a man came and got her and escorted her into the room.
Green’s interview was the first of six that day that Lawing held for the job, with five of those being in-person interviews and one held using a video conferencing system. The group of county administrators who are helping Lawing with the interviews apparently includes Guilford County Planning and Development Department Director Leslie Bell, Emergency Services Director Jim Albright and Purchasing Director Bonnie Stellfox – at least, those three were in the room when Lawing interviewed the candidates.
The DHHS director job is the county’s second most powerful position after the county manager, and the person selected will be in charge of about 1,000 county employees. The new position, which has a pay range of $155,000 to $196,000 a year, was created in May when the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted to merge two of the county’s largest departments – the Department of Social Services and the Department of Public Health – into one giant human services department.
Lawing said this week that the interviews had gone well and said that “two or three” candidates would be called back for second interviews. He also said he may have something to report by the next time the county commissioners meet, which is scheduled to be Thursday, July 17.
Lawing has invited the county commissioners to participate in the interview and selection process and offer their advice on the new director, and five commissioners did come by and sit in on some of the interviews. However, there were never five or more commissioners in the room at the same time. If there had been, the commissioners would have had to open the meeting to the public momentarily. The commissioners would have then voted to go into closed session for the purpose of considering job applicant qualifications.
Commissioner Hank Henning showed up for two of the in-person interviews on June 25, and he said that, while he’s interested in observing the hiring process, he planned on staying out of the actual selection for the most part. Henning added that it was his impression that most of other commissioners planned to stay out of it as well.
“We’re just there to ‘advise and consent,’” Henning said. “I think Marty should be given a lot of latitude in the selection process.”
Henning said that, ultimately, Lawing is the one the new director will work for and therefore it should be Lawing’s man or his woman in that spot.
While Henning is content to stay out it, three other commissioners – all Democrats – have already been publicly praising Green as a fine choice for the job. Commissioners Carolyn Coleman, Bruce Davis and Ray Trapp have all said glowing things about Green and, at a recent commissioners meeting, the three voted to make Green the interim DHHS director. However, their attempt to do so failed.