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Duck begins search for new town manager

In separate meetings over a three week period, Duck Town Council reviewed search company proposals aimed at locating a new town manager candidate, selected Developmental Associates, LLC from among a pool of four, reviewed search process criteria and related timeline and signed a contract.

On September 9 in a reconvened session, Mayor Kingston presented council with a spreadsheet of four search companies that responded to the town’s request for proposals: Colin Baenziger & Associates in Daytona Beach Shores, Fla.; Developmental Associates, LLC., in Chapel Hill; The Mercer Group in Raleigh and Slavin Management Consultants in Norcross, Ga.

Each firm – connected via Zoom remote access video link – gave 30-minute presentations followed by a few questions from council with a brief break between each interview.

Leading the procession was Colin Baenziger. In business 22 years, he said it was important for the search to stay on schedule, have a good background search and that there be good communication between council and candidate. Although Duck would be the smallest town he has worked with, Baenziger said his process would be the same as for larger organizations and included:
– Developing a recruit profile,
– Advertising for candidates with least four sources,
– Developing a candidate list with thorough background searches,
– A list review by council and then interviews,
– A process guaranteed for one year.

The second presentation was from Stephen K. Straus with Developmental Associates, which was started in 1991 and incorporated about 15 years ago.

Straus said while he does not expect Duck to have any problems getting candidates, his group would first look at key challenges the town is facing before tapping into five methods for recruitment. With candidate information standardized, council would be able to compare each candidate on an even plane.

Straus then covered some of the issues that can and cannot be learned in a typical interview and offered some steps he takes to fill in those gaps.

“An interview is incapable of providing the opportunity to directly observe more critical managerial competencies such as leadership, interpersonal, presentation, writing, supervisory and community meeting facilitation skills,” said Straus. “Employers and boards often assume that a personable, knowledgeable and experienced candidate has these other competencies, but all too often, that is not the case.”

Straus explained that he uses assessment exercises that simulate the responsibilities of a position which greatly enhances the accuracy and depth of the information he can provide.

The third presentation was from S. Ellis Hankins, a retired executive director of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, who heads up The Mercer Group. A nationwide firm with 17 locations, Hankins pointed out that his firm was recently involved with filling positions in Southern Shores, Manteo, Indian Trial and Emerald Isle.

Hankins went on to say his firm does extensive background searches including criminal histories, credits checks and verifying credentials.

The final September 9 presentation was from Robert E. Slavin with Slavin Management Consultants, also formed in 1991. Slavin said his group has made more than 900 placements who maintain an average tenure of seven years, two more than the national average.

Slavin also stressed the need for extensive background searches, adding that he also helps the selected candidate set up performance goals based on the town’s search criteria. No stranger to North Carolina, Slavin helped fill the Buncombe county manager and Greenville city manager positions.

Following the September 9 meeting adjournment, council was back in session the following week, September 16, for a regular mid-month meeting that included a vote to contract with Developmental Associates, LLC., in Chapel Hill to conduct the town manager search.

Although there was some support for The Mercer Group in Raleigh, the majority of council comments favored Straus and his assessment exercises over Mercer. A motion by Mayor Kingston to contract with Developmental Associates passed with unanimous approval and the town attorney was directed to prepare a contract.

In other September 16 meeting business, assistant town manager Alyson Flynn presented an August financial statement showing revenues and expenses close to what was expected. Flynn said while property tax revenues are down slightly and local sales taxes for June are down, the occupancy taxes are way up.

“We are packed,” Flynn added.

There was also a discussion with Duck Surf Rescue director Mirek Dabrowski over the extension of current lifeguard services.

With more people visiting the area than typical for this time of year, council voted to have two extra guards on patrol for the first two October weekends.

After a closed session with the town attorney to discuss a confidential matter, council adjourned only to be called back the following Wednesday, September 23, for a special video conference session with Straus of Developmental Associates to discuss the town manager search process and contract details.

During the video meeting, Straus covered some of the challenges and expectations that might be involved. Among the topics covered were beach renourishment and the financing for that project, recovery from COVID, the summer influx of people and related traffic issues, the pedestrian plan, a living shoreline project, 800 MHz radios and work toward a new public safety building and the unique relationship with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Nancy Caviness also pointed out that as a small town many, if not all, employees are actually doing the job of two or three people.

Also discussed was the recruitment of candidates, what council is looking for and a public survey (available here) to allow citizen input for the search. Straus said he expected to have a list of candidates for council review by early November.

After working out a few contract details, Duck Town Council signed a contract with Stephen K. Straus and Developmental Associates to locate a new town manager for a fee not to exceed $20,090.

Council then adjourned the September 23 meeting and Straus went into video conference sessions with various town department managers.

Barring any other special meeting, Duck Town Council will meet again at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 7 for a regular session meeting.

town manager

Duck Town Council members, from left, Monica Thibodeau, Mayor Don Kingston, Sandy Whitman and Nancy Caviness discuss town manager search details during a special September 23 video conference meeting with Stephen K. Straus with Developmental Associates, LLC. Of Chapel Hill. Council member Rob Mooney was not present. Duck meeting screenshot

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