One of the more promising signs in the aftermath of the disappointing firing of Nash County Manager Bob Murphy has been a small opening for public input on the hiring of Murphy’s successor.
As Telegram staff writer Darla Slipke has reported, Nash County commissioners spent much of last week interviewing potential candidates for the county manager job. The county also has established an online survey seeking the public’s opinion of what qualities the next county manager should possess.
The survey is basic. It asks respondents to rank core competencies and leadership skills in order of importance. It’s nice to get the public involved, but it’s hard to imagine a hiring decision hinging on whether a candidate considers “strong customer focus” to be more important than “integrity and credibility” or vice versa.
Commissioner Robbie Davis has suggested the board might look for other ways to involve the public once the field of candidates has been narrowed. That would mark a welcome approach on the part of commissioners.
Allowing the public to ask questions of the candidates during a forum, for example, would give us a better idea of how each candidate has dealt with challenges in other jobs they’ve held. Instead of asking a candidate how important a quality he or she considers “strong customer focus” to be, a constituent might ask for specific examples of how a candidate has demonstrated a commitment to customer needs in previous jobs.
Davis cautioned that some candidates might resist such a forum because they prefer to retain their anonymity during the application process. But a good county manager has to be responsive to questions and suggestions from the public he or she serves. A candidate who is open enough to listen to the public during the application process deserves a star or two as commissioners weigh their hiring options.
Bringing folks further into the hiring process will go a long way toward building a relationship between the county manager and the public he or she will serve.