January 17, 2013
Rumors of Guilford County
Assistant Manager Sharisse Fuller's resignation at the end of February, like those of Mark Twain's death, appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
The Guilford County
Board of Commissioners is making Fuller the interim manager with a new contract that runs from Feb. 1 to the end of June. Fuller will serve as the acting county manager until a new manager can be hired and, once that happens, Fuller will remain a county employee and will show the ropes to the new manager before Fuller retires once and for all at the end of June.
Unless, of course, the board decides to make Fuller county manager and Fuller accepts.
In early 2009, which was the last time the county conducted a search for a new manager, the Board of Commissioners began a search, collected applications – and then suddenly shut down the process and hired Brenda Jones Fox, who was then interim county manager, and who, at the start of the search, said she had absolutely no interest in being county manager.
Fox, who's stepping down at the end of January, went on to be manager for four years.
In 2009, some commissioners who supported Fox said that none of the applicants were as qualified as Fox or knew Guilford County
government as well as she did.
The county's 2013 situation is starting to look a lot like that of 2009 – an interim manager who has said she has no interest in being manager, a small pool of applicants and a host of major issues facing the county.
At the Thursday, Jan. 10 annual commissioners retreat, the Guilford County
Board of Commissioners reached a deal with Fuller in closed session, and then came out into open session to vote unanimously to make Fuller, who is also the county's human resources director, the interim manager once Fox steps down from her 41-year career with Guilford County
at the end of this month.
So, regardless of what happens in the manager search, Fuller is going to remain a Guilford County
employee for at least five more months. Starting on Friday, Feb. 1, as compensation for her move up from assistant manager to interim manager, Fuller will get a 10 percent pay increase, lifting her current salary from $163,120 a year to over $179,400 a year – which approaches Fox's current salary of $183,200.
Fuller will now make more than Greensboro City Manager Denise Turner Roth, who manages over 3,000 employees. The county has about 2,400 employees, but around two-thirds of those don't fall under the county manager because they either work for elected officials – such as the sheriff and the register of deeds – or they work under the Board of Public Health or the Board of Social Services, or they work directly for the Guilford County
Board of Commissioners, such as the county attorney and the clerk to the board.
According to the agreement between Fuller and the commissioners, the county will, in addition, pay Fuller $15,089 in compensation for 192 hours in vacation time that Fuller would have been able to collect if she had retired at the end of February. On Thursday, Jan. 3, Fuller announced that Feb. 28 would be her last day with Guilford County
, but those plans have changed.
Fuller will also now make more whenever she does retire because retirement pay for county employees is based on the highest four consecutive years of pay during their time with the county.
If Fuller does resign before July 1, she will also receive a $16,000 bonus meant to encourage the early retirement of long-time county employees.Guilford County
Attorney Mark Payne said Fuller would be entitled to the voluntary early retirement bonus and he added that the money for vacation is something she would have received if she had retired.
"The voluntary early retirement is available to anyone retiring on or before June 30," Payne wrote in an email. "However, if you retire after February 28, you lose your vacation over 240 hours. The agreement with Sharisse paid her for the cash she loses by waiting until after 2/28/13 to retire; she gets the [early retirement] payment either way."
The county has seen five department heads – including Fuller – announce their retirement in the last two months, and several commissioners said the impending departure of so many county administrators at once caused the board to keep Fuller. She was called into the closed session to discuss the idea and the terms were worked out.
Commissioner Ray Trapp said the widespread departure of county directors, especially Fox and Fuller's looming retirement, had a lot of commissioners and others asking the same question: "Who's running the county?"
Trapp said there was a consensus among commissioners to offer Fuller the deal.
"She was the obvious choice," Trapp said. "We asked her and she said yes. I'm just glad she was willing to do it."
Commissioner Bruce Davis said he thought making Fuller the interim manager would provide some stability in county leadership at a time when the county is losing a group of directors within a short period of time.
Davis and other commissioners pointed out that, if Fuller had departed at the end of February, Guilford County
wouldn't just lose its highest ranking remaining administrator but also its human resources director.
Commissioner Alan Branson also said he thought Fuller was the right choice to oversee the transition. He said that, given the departure of a large number of department heads, it was a good idea to have someone in that positions who had experience and knew Guilford County
Last month, county staff presented the commissioners with a proposed timeline that called for hiring a new manager by Friday, March 1. That timeline seemed optimistic to many, and, after the board got its first look at the resumes of applicants for the manager's job, that timeline seemed even more so.
Springsted Inc., the St. Paul, Minnesota-based search firm hired by the county, presented the commissioners with booklets that contained the resumes of 13 applicants – a number that clearly disappointed some commissioners. It was after viewing the resumes in closed session that the board decided to speak with Fuller about withdrawing her resignation.
Now no one seems to be talking about hiring a new manager by March 1.
Commissioner Carolyn Coleman said it would no doubt take longer than staff first predicted.
"I would hope we would have someone by the first of April," Coleman said.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Linda Shaw has also cited April as a realistic target date for hiring a new manager.
Some commissioners said they would like to see more diversity in the pool of applicants. In the group of 13 presented to the commissioners, there was only one minority applicant and one female.
Also, some Republican commissioners have commented that they would like to see some potential manager candidates who aren't from government, but are, instead, successful businesspeople.
According to Coleman, almost all of the applicants have largely government-sector experience....continued on page 2