All that is required to understand the county Board of Commissioners’ year-plus delay in the hiring of a new county manager is to be minimally conscious.
Several commissioners, when forcing Ken Windley out of the position in late 2010, already had in mind a replacement, Ricky Harris, then the assistant county manager. But 16 months later, Harris continues to work as the interim county manager — and it’s anyone’s guess when the interim will be dropped. But you can believe there will be no finality until after the May primary.
The commissioners advertised the position last summer and, although plenty of applications are in hand, including Harris’, there has been little movement since, and no interviews of candidates. If a genuine search were to be conducted, that would require re-advertising the position to get a fresh pool of candidates.
Tellingly, the advertisement that was published did not require a master’s degree in Business Administration as has been the protocol in the past, but settled for “any equivalent combination of training and experience.” Harris is currently working toward obtaining his master’s degree, so should he be hired to the permanent position, that would be removed as an issue. His workplace experience makes him a very credible candidate.
Some county commissioners have defended their approach by pointing toward money that is being saved in salary. While that’s true, it amounts to a pebble of sand on a beach when the size of the country’s budget is weighed — and a capable county manager would have found at least that much in savings with belt-tightening that a difficult economy demands.
The process has afforded Harris time for an extended audition, which he has used to his favor. The county government has operated effectively. There have been initiatives introduced to either save tax dollars or generate new revenue, and there was a token cut in the property tax rate last year, enough for the owner of a $100,000 home to buy a movie ticket.
Harris has no culpability in any of this. He wants what all of us should — a satisfying career that is well-compensated.
As for the commissioners who hold sufficient sway to continue the stall, they are following a well-worn path that recalls more than a single search in this county for a superintendent of the school system, when the winning candidate was identified early and a song and dance followed.
There is, as the school board was once advised by a consultant, nothing wrong with forgoing a valid search in favor of a local candidate, but the fault is found in the feigning of the process. It’s a lesson that has been taught more than once and, in Robeson County at least, ignored almost as often.