Not Chosen As Interim Manager
Jim Westmoreland will never get to be interim Greensboro city manager.
The Greensboro City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 21 gave Westmoreland the city manager job effective Feb. 1.
That skipped the “interim” phase altogether, as well as a possible national search, such as was held for City Manager Denise Roth and her predecessor, Rashad Young.
The City Council promoted Westmoreland, like Roth, from within. Westmoreland is now deputy city manager, and the City Council had already voted to name him interim city manager as of Feb. 1.
After a closed session at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, however, the City Council voted 8 to 1 to give Westmoreland the job without a search. Councilmember Jamal Fox cast the sole vote against the appointment.
After the meeting, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said the majority of the councilmembers had confidence in Westmoreland and didn’t want to take the time needed to conduct a national search and to bring a city manager hired elsewhere up to speed on Greensboro.
Vaughan said that giving Westmoreland the job on an interim basis would have left the city manager, the deputy city manager and two of three assistant city managers serving as interims, without a clear mandate. No announcement was made as to who will replace Westmoreland as deputy city manager.
An enthusiastic Councilmember Mike Barber said that putting Westmoreland directly into the job will give Greensboro a smooth and uncontroversial management transition – “something this city badly needs.”
Fox said his vote was not based on a lack of confidence in Westmoreland, but on Fox’s desire to broaden the pool of candidates. He would not say if he had another candidate in mind, and Vaughan said no councilmember proposed another candidate.
The City Council on Jan. 7 tapped Westmoreland to temporarily replace Roth after her last day of work on Jan. 31. Roth was appointed deputy administrator of the US General Services Administration.
But Westmoreland was direct about his intentions, and told the Rhino Times on Jan. 13 that he wanted the full-time job.
In naming Westmoreland city manager, the City Council avoided a long, potentially divisive, and, as Barber pointed out, expensive search. A national search would have required flying in candidates for interviews, advertising the job widely and possibly hiring a headhunting firm, as the City Council did before promoting Roth.
Vaughan said that Roth was apologetic when she announced her appointment in Washington, DC.
Vaughan said, “She said, ‘It’s important to know that I’m not going off to another municipality. I’m not cheating on you.’”
Roth said that she and her family had adopted Greensboro as their home.
“I feel like it’s ending too short, too quickly,” she said. “I truly am committed to this community.”
Councilmember Yvonne Johnson told Roth that if she gives half as much to her new job as she gave Greensboro, “you will be magnificent.”
Johnson then read a pre-agreed City Council resolution stating that Westmoreland was the best candidate for the job and was therefore appointed city manager, conditional only on Vaughan negotiating a contract with him.
“Congratulations, Mr. Westmoreland,” Vaughan said. “We look forward to working with you for many years.”
The potential of keeping a city manager for many years may have been a strong point in Westmoreland’s favor. Twice in a row, with Roth and Young, the City Council hired young, ambitious city managers, only to lose them after two years to other jobs.
Roth has been manager for 18 months, and interim for six months before that. Young stayed for two years until November 2011, leaving to become city manager of Alexandria, Virginia.
Westmoreland is 48, has a longer management resume than either Roth or Young, and has worked for the Greensboro city government for years, in between stints with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and a private consulting firm. He pitched his willingness to stay in the job and his longtime connection to Greensboro as selling points.
Westmoreland called Roth “a hard act to follow.” He said, “I certainly look forward to working with this council and this community on a much higher level.”
After the meeting, he was businesslike about his appointment, saying a long search process would have slowed him down. He said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The City Council vote approved paying Westmoreland $179,000 with an expense allowance of $1,000 a month. Roth, after a recent pay raise, was making $186,000 a year.
In other business, the City Council voted unanimously to apply to the Local Government Commission for authority to sell $50 million in general obligation bond anticipatory notes – a form of short-term financing until the city permanently finances the $50 million in 2016. The $50 million in eventual bonds were approved by voters in referendums from 2006 to 2009, but the city did not issue the bonds to avoid accumulating debt.
The $50 million would pay for $25 million in street improvements, $8.2 million in parks and recreation facilities, $6.8 million in fires stations, $4.7 million for the Greensboro Science Center, $2 million each for libraries and economic development and $1 million for housing.
The City Council voted unanimously to create three new zoning classifications for High Point Road and Lee Street – a university mixed-use district from Eugene Street to Aycock Street, an auto oriented zoning classification for large businesses such as Four Seasons Town Centre, the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center and the Greensboro Coliseum and a neighborhood support classification for stretches of the street where a thin line of businesses backs up to residences.
The new zoning classifications are part of the City Council’s plan for redeveloping High Point Road and Lee Street, which the council recently voted to rename Gate City Boulevard effective in 2015.
Tuesday’s vote merely amended the city’s land use ordinance. The actual rezoning of High Point Road and Lee Street will go before the Greensboro Zoning Commission on Feb. 10 and the City Council on March 4.
The rezoning would also apply new sign restrictions, which are scheduled to be considered by the Greensboro Planning Board on March 19 and the City Council on April 7.
BY Paul C. Clark
January 23, 2014
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