RED SPRINGS — The town manager here has pushed back his departure date in order to help implement grant-funded projects and to give the Board of Commissioners and the mayor more time to find his replacement.
James Bennett’s last day as town manager is now Jan. 31. He had originally announced he would leave on Dec. 13.
Bennett said Friday from Charlotte he was asked to stay longer because grant projects with which he is familiar need to be finished.
He, Mayor John McNeill and town commissioners were in Charlotte taking part in the annual meeting of the National League of Municipalities.
Bennett’s other reason for staying was the search for his replacement.
“I want to make sure they take the time to get the right person to be the town manager of Red Springs,” Bennett said.
Bennett assumed the Red Springs town manager mantle in 2012. He came to Red Springs from Marshville, where he had held the same position.
Red Springs leaders asked Bennett to stay longer so his knowledge would not be lost during a time when so many projects are about to be implemented, McNeill said.
“He was kind enough to do that,” McNeill said.
The town is getting ready to begin a sewer project being funded by a $2.2 million grant, McNeill said. Town leaders also are working to receive a $1.4 million reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Hurricane Matthew damage. And the town is set to implement projects to addressing flooding in Red Springs using money from grants being administered by Robeson County government.
“We have to have a manager in place with knowledge of what’s going on,” McNeill said.
With Bennett in the town manager’s office through January, Red Springs leaders can take the time to find the right person to replace him, McNeill said.
Four applicants have been interviewed, the mayor said, adding he believes three of them are well-qualified.
“But we want more applicants,” McNeill said.
The town has reached out to Ellis Hankins, former director of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, for help, McNeill said. Hankins is being asked to find other viable candidates for the manager’s job.
“Maybe one of the people we’ve interviewed will be right,” McNeill said. “We’re trying to get it right.”
McNeill will be gone as mayor when the new manager comes on. He decided not to seek re-election to a fifth term as mayor, and will end more than 40 years as either a commissioner or a mayor.
Reach T.C. Hunter at 910-816-1974.