Pembroke manager gets pact
Mayor wonders why
by By Bob Shiles
PEMBROKE — Pembroke councilmen have broken tradition and given their town manager a contract, a move longtime Pembroke Mayor Milton Hunt claims was “unnecessary.”
“No other town manager in the county works under a contract,” Hunt said. “It’s nothing against the manager. He’s doing a fine job. I just think a contract is unnecessary at this time.”
Hunt said that the council approved a three-year contract for Pembroke native Oryan D. Lowry at its June 28 meeting. Lowry, who like other town managers serve at the pleasure of the town’s elected officials, just began his second year as town manager on Aug. 1.
The contract does not increase the manager’s annual salary of $64,000, Hunt said, or significantly change benefits. It just provides some job security.
“If I was a manager, and someone would give me a contract, I guess I would want it too.” Hunt said. “It gives some (job) protection.”
Lowry said that he had requested the contract. He said his contract is a “tweaked” version of a model recommended by the University of North Carolina’s School of Government.
“I would like to remain here (Pembroke) as town manager until I retire. This town is, and always has been, my home,” he said. “I love this job. It’s a daily challenge and I look forward to coming to work every day.”
Lowry, 41, is a graduate of Purnell Swett High School and The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Before becoming Pembroke’s manager, he was a science teacher at South Robeson High School and worked for a time as a food inspector and compliance officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
McDuffie Cummings served as Pembroke’s manager just shy of 35 years, but never under a contract.
“I was surprised when I heard about it,” Cummings said. “We had never discussed a contract when I was manager, and I never heard of any town manager in Robeson County who had a contract.”
Cummings, like Hunt, said he does not think a town manager in Robeson County needs to work under a contract.
“I think when you work without a contract it makes you a little more sensitive to the needs of the citizens and the council,” Cummings said.
According to Jan Maynor, executive director of the Lumber River Council of Governments, it is not unusual for town and county managers in other parts of the state to work under a contract. In Robeson County, however, the “logic has always been to serve at the pleasure of the board,” Maynor said.
Robeson County Manager Ricky Harris works under a three-year contract. Most other town managers in Robeson County, Maynor said, work under an agreement that provides a six-month severance pay if their job is terminated.
“A contract saves the manager from the political process,” Maynor said. “They are protected in situations where policies and the environment of a board may change.”
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