Charlotte Observer
11:34 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Hiring A New Mecklenburg County Manager Likely To Take Several More Weeks

Pat Cotham

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Mecklenburg County won’t have a new manager until late December – or even early next year.

Before their regular meeting Tuesday, the county’s full board of commissioners apparently saw for the first time in closed session a whittled down list of three to five candidates selected by a search committee of four commissioners.

Mecklenburg has been without a permanent manager since early May, when the board fired longtime manager Harry Jones. Since then, Interim County Manager Bobbie Shields has run the county. An informal deadline of Oct. 15 had been set to hire Jones’ replacement.

Chairwoman Pat Cotham, who also chairs the search committee, and county Human Resources Director Chris Peek wouldn’t confirm that the list was shared with the full board Tuesday.

Peek did say that the full board met with recruiters from the county-hired search firm, Coleman Lew + Associates of Charlotte, during a special 4 p.m. closed session.

“It would be inappropriate to discuss what went on in closed session,” Peek said.

He did say the next step would be for the board to “explore those candidates.” That may not happen for another few weeks. “It could take awhile to coordinate the schedules of nine board members and multiple candidates, staff and recruiters,” he said.

The board, he said, must also decide if it will seek public input, with the final candidates invited to forums with Mecklenburg residents – a process that Charlotte City Council and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board used recently to hire a city manager and superintendent.

“That could take more time,” Peek said. “The city and school board had a number of forums with the community invited to meet the top two or three candidates in the same room. The board has not decided what they want that process to look like.”

The commissioners’ next meeting isn’t until Dec. 3, though it could call a special meeting to make some decisions to speed up the process.

Child welfare head retiring

In open session at Tuesday’s meeting, Vice Chairwoman Kim Ratliff announced that Charles Bradley is taking over the county’s Youth and Family Services division, the Department of Social Services unit responsible for abused and neglected children.

Bradley, who has worked for the agency since 2004, starts in December. He’s replacing longtime director Paul Risk, who is retiring in January, according to DSS Director Peggy Eagan.

Last year, former DSS director Mary Wilson had tried to have Risk reassigned from Youth and Family Services. But he kept the position even after a 2011 consultants’ study recommended the county replace him because he lacked “assertive and decisive leadership.” The report also said distrust between Wilson and Risk had created divisiveness and confusion in the agency.

Instead, the county fired Wilson, stating she hadn’t been truthful and didn’t work well with colleagues.

Qcitymetro contributed to this story.

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