Council hires first female city manager

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Rochelle D. Small-Toney


Staff Writer

Friday, May 26, 2017

Rocky Mount's first female city manager will start the job with a polished pedigree and some baggage.

Rochelle D. Small-Toney will go to work for the city July 2 with a starting annual salary of $175,000 plus benefits.

Small-Toney, a Wilmington native, most recently worked as deputy city manager for Fayetteville. She is a pioneer: She's the first black woman to play women’s basketball at UNC and serve as city manager of Savannah, Ga.

“We are happy someone with such varied and relevant experience will lead Rocky Mount,” said Mayor Davis Combs.

It hasn't been all smooth sailing for Small-Toney. She was asked to resign from her position with Savannah a few years ago due to alleged travel expense discrepancies. And she backed out of a potential job in Virginia last year due to questions arising about her troubles in Georgia, according to newspaper reports.

Combs said the council learned all about Small-Toney's background during a thorough vetting process, but was satisfied she was the best candidate for the job.

“She was very honest with us that she didn't leave Savannah on good terms, but we felt it was more of a political issue and she was caught in the middle more than anything else,” Combs said.

The decision to hire Small-Toney was made during a closed session Friday, but the final contract details weren't worked out until Thursday, just prior to the announcement being made, said Tameka Kenan-Norman, the city's public affairs manager.

Small-Toney has worked in city-county government for 34 years, including time as assistant city manager in Danville and Charlottesville, Va.; and budget analyst and personnel analyst for Wilmington. She is a 1978 and 1981 graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration.

As deputy city manager in Fayetteville, Small-Toney served as project director for the city’s upcoming minor league baseball stadium. The sports enthusiast oversaw all phases of the project, including the feasibility study, recruitment of the Houston Astros’ class A minor league team, development of the Memorandum of Understanding and the creation of a 30-year financial plan. The stadium and mixed-use commercial property is scheduled to be completed in 2019 and will be located in downtown Fayetteville.

“With the advent of the Downtown Community Facility and the ongoing success of the Rocky Mount Sports Complex, Small-Toney’s avid love of sports, background in athletics and oversight of large sports projects will be a tremendous asset to our growing city,” Combs said.

Councilman Lamont Wiggins said Small-Toney comes to Rocky Mount with a wealth of knowledge and a multitude of positive experiences and outcomes that span three decades of dedicated public service.

“From small towns to large metropolitan areas, she is a proven manager in all areas that touches the full gamut of local services,” Wiggins said. “We look forward to her new era of leadership that forges forward with an all-encompassing, citizen-centered, service-oriented and transformative direction.”

Rocky Mount used the search firm Developmental Associates in looking for a manager to replace Charles Penny, the city's long-time manager who recently retired. Penny is now a paid consultant with the city for the Downtown Event Center.

Small-Toney is married with two adult children.