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Nashville continues search for town manager

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Friday, February 15, 2019

NASHVILLE — At least 27 people have filed applications seeking to be Nashville’s next town manager.

To aid in the search, the town’s government is retaining Mike Ruffin, a senior consultant with the Developmental Associates recruiting firm in Chapel Hill. Ruffin is known in North Carolina government as having served as Durham’s city manager for 13 years.

Nashville has been operating with an interim manager after Hank Raper was fired in June. The town also has been operating with an interim finance director because Linda Modlin was fired in June.

And the town’s police department has an interim chief because Tom Bashore retired in December.

The application deadline is today for the town manager position.

Meantime, Ruffin said assisting in securing the future Nashville manager isn’t a normal process for him because he himself was the town manager from 1978-82.

“This is a very special one — and I want to do ‘em a good job,” Ruffin said. “And I certainly want to help ‘em find the kind of manager that they want or are looking for.”

Councilwoman Louise Hinton has served on the town’s governing panel for approximately 14 years.

Hinton made clear she wants a manager who’s going to be transparent and forthright and who’s going to communicate with all of the council members.

Hinton said she’s confident Ruffin is going to present good candidates for consideration and said she feels like the town has a top consultant who’s going to help the process along.

“He’s checking people out pretty carefully,” she said. “He understands what we’ve been through.”

Copies of the termination letters issued to Raper and Modlin obtained by the Telegram don’t provide specifics about why they were dismissed.

However, Raper’s downfall can be traced at least as far back as this past spring, when he and Modlin refused to allow a local family to bury their late mother next to their father's grave in a plot the family owned in the town’s cemetery because Raper said they lacked the proper paperwork.

Additionally, moments before the town council voted in June to end Raper’s employment, the town’s former library director told the panel of Raper allegedly mistreating her and of having attempted to commit suicide. 

Ruffin made clear he believes that asking manager candidates about being people-friendly is going to be a high priority in the search process.

“I think of the things that you really learn in an interview, in a personal interview is, ‘What kind of interpersonal skills does a candidate have?’” he said.

And he said in today’s world, managers aren’t going to be successful if they don’t communicate well — not just with the governing body, but also with the public.

“They have to get out from behind their desk, get out in the community, get to know people, learn to listen to them and work with the council,” he said. “And hopefully this council will set some early goals for their new manager to work with them on,” he said.

Also involved in the search process is Interim Manager Leonard Barefoot, who’s retired from having served as manager of Sanford. Barefoot has participated in many searches for managers, including once in Nashville.

Barefoot said typically after interviews are completed for a manager position, one is looking at time needed to check into the applicants’ backgrounds.

And he noted if a candidate is already working as a manager elsewhere, he or she has to give 30 days notice of resignation to the current employer.

“So it’ll be about three more months, but the whole process usually takes four to five months,” he said.

As for the finance director position, Melonie Bryan is serving on an interim basis. Bryan was deputy county manager and chief financial officer in Pitt County.

“We have not yet selected a finance director, but I think we have somebody that I can announce fairly soon,” Barefoot said.

The town hasn’t yet started advertising for a new police chief. Capt. Joey Corbett is serving as chief for now.

“With everything going on, I felt it best just to go a little bit slow on that,” Barefoot said. “We have an interim who’s doing a good job.”

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