January 31, 2013The Guilford County Board of Commissioners may have found their man – or their woman.
The next Guilford County manager may have been in the batch of seven candidates the board interviewed on Monday, Jan. 28 via a remote video conferencing system. The commissioners are searching for a replacement for Guilford County Manager Brenda Jones Fox, who's retiring on Thursday, Jan. 31.
The Board of Commissioners conducted the interviews in a five-hour closed meeting on the third floor of the Greensboro's city hall in which the commissioners interviewed the seven candidates for about 30 to 45 minutes each.
Every commissioner asked said that two or three of the candidates stood out above the rest. The commissioners also said they felt that most of the commissioners were in a good deal of agreement as to which two candidates made the best impression.
When Commissioner Jeff Phillips was asked if the county might have a new manager selected soon, he gave a one-word response.
"Absolutely," Phillips said.
Phillips added quickly that the commissioners weren't going to rush the decision; however, he said, he was very pleased with what he saw in the first round of interviews, and he said he thought other commissioners were as well.
Commissioner Alan Branson also said he was encouraged by the conversations with the applicants for the county's top administrative job.
The board now plans to bring in three candidates for face-to-face interviews. That may happen sometime in mid-February.
The nine commissioners, who met from 1:30 p.m. until nearly 7 p.m. on Monday, interviewed the seven candidates over a Microsoft Lynx connection. The county commissioners used the conference room in Greensboro's city hall because Guilford County, despite spending exorbitant amounts on computer equipment in recent years, doesn't have adequate video-conferencing capabilities.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Linda Shaw, who had to leave the lengthy meeting about an hour early because she was feeling under the weather, said she thought the interviews had gone very well.
"There are a couple of candidates that stand out," Shaw said.
Several commissioners said the board asked each candidate the same set of questions in order to compare them fairly.
Commissioner Kay Cashion said the board used scoring sheets for each candidate.
"We ranked their responses to each question on a scale of 1 to 5," Cashion said.
The commissioners turned in their score sheets to Assistant Manager Sharisse Fuller, who's also the county's human resources director – and who is, in addition, the person named by the Board of Commissioners to become the interim county manager on Friday, Feb. 1 after Fox leaves.
The county's Human Resources Department will tally the scores, and the ranking will be used to help determine the three finalists.
Guilford County is still accepting resumes. However, the classified ad that the county is running states the county would give preference to candidates who applied before Monday, Jan. 7; and, with several appealing candidates now in the commissioners' sights, that's likely a moot point anyway.
Earlier in January, the commissioners chose the seven candidates to interview after looking at 13 resumes brought to the county by Springsted Inc., the search firm hired to help find a new manager.
After reviewing the resumes, several county commissioners seemed pessimistic about the way things were heading. However, the commissioners were much more upbeat after the candidate interviews on Monday afternoon.
The search for a new county manager narrowed in another way as well this week: Fuller said she will not under any circumstances be the next county manager. She said that once her term as interim manager runs out at the end of June – or whenever a new manager takes over and has learned all the ropes – she will retire from county government and do some private consulting work.
Fuller said she never applied for the job and wouldn't take it even if the board asked her to. She said the reason she hadn't stated that firmly before is that she wanted the board to know she was committed to doing whatever it took to help the county make a smooth transition to a new manager.
Many county employees said they had been betting that Fuller might end up as the new manager even though she didn't apply for the job, because the board voted unanimously to make Fuller the acting manager, and because some commissioners seemed unimpressed with the resumes of the candidates for the job. In addition, four years ago, Fox didn't apply for the manager's job. She said explicitly that she didn't want it – and yet the board still stopped in the middle of a search and made Fox county manager.
Fuller said that, when she becomes interim manager on Feb. 1, she will name interim directors for departments with retiring directors.
Fuller didn't give any names but she did say she "will follow the county's succession plan," which likely means Fuller will name the second in command in each department with a retiring director.
Several commissioners said Guilford County may have a new manager selected by the end of February, which would mean the board would come in ahead of schedule based on a March 1 goal that the Human Resources Department cited on a proposed timeline for the manager's search.