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Wake County faces competition in attracting new manager

Posted August 19, 2013

— Wake County commissioners on Monday agreed to hire a search firm to find a replacement for longtime County Manager David Cooke, but said similar job vacancies across the area could up the ante for attracting the best candidate.

Cooke plans to retire at the end of November, and the commission hopes to have a new manager in place by February or March of 2014. 

But Durham, Orange and Mecklenburg counties are also seeking new managers, as is the City of Raleigh.

Wake County is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and county commission Chairman Joe Bryan said its fiscal health and lack of controversy will give it an edge in attracting the best candidate.

"We will stand out," Bryan said. "It's a very solid environment for a manager to come into."

But David McLennon, professor of political science at William Peace University, said the high-profile positions have become increasingly political in recent years, which may have played some role in the recent resignations.

"They used to be primarily administrative. You wouldn't hear much of the city or county manager," McLennon said. "Now you see in news reports – they're having conflict with their board, city council, county commissioners."

David McLennan Competition ups ante in county manager searches

He said the job requires someone who can oversee massive budgets, manage hundreds of employees and direct services to thousands of residents. In other words, the candidate pool is finite.

"These are not just mid-level people. These are people who have run cities before, so there are very few of those that could fit in one of these positions," McLennon said. "So, it’s going to be very competitive. The county may compete against the city for the same type of person." 

But Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said the competition could be a boon to the search for a city manager. Someone looking at the county manager position might also see the city's opening and apply, increasing the overall candidate pool, she said.

The simultaneous searches could also drive up salaries.

"That’s one thing I was a little concerned about," said Bryan. "It will depend on what our peers are doing – what’s Raleigh doing? What’s Mecklenburg County doing? That could create some pressure on salaries."

County Commissioner Paul Coble, however, said he wasn't worried about finding the right fit for Wake.

"You're talking about a nationwide search and a lot of people who will be qualified," he said. "I think we'll have a good slate of candidates to choose from."


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  • BE Aug 20, 2013

    I know you are not going to post this and that is OK. It is directed to WRAL. I am amazed at the kinds of things some of the folks send in about many of the stories on your web site. Many posts have nothing to do with what has been reported. Also makes me wonder why you post some of the hog wash.

  • davisgw Aug 20, 2013

    Raleigh is having problems because of the way they fired the former manager. Some magazines have given Raleigh a bad review over the matter and I am sure people looking for this job will have second thoughts about applying.

  • jdupree Aug 20, 2013

    Leave it vacant and let the Mayor earn her pay!

  • senex Aug 20, 2013

    Frankly, Wake County is now just too big. It's Raleigh school needs are very different from North Wake or SW Wake. It's budgetary needs are different.

    It's a huge county, and at this point, getting too tough to manage properly. Time for NC's 101st County.

  • spiritseeker Aug 20, 2013

    I'm just waiting for the Republicans on the County Council to offer the job to the fired Raleigh city manager who is well versed about the area just like the governor did by hiring the fired superintendent of the Wake county schools.

  • notexactly Aug 20, 2013

    I actually work for one of these superman. I like working here, but the politics stink as well as the pay. But I choose it so not complaining. I would much rather be here than on the system though. I never have been on the system. I would rather work and contribute to society myself.

  • superman Aug 19, 2013

    Raleigh and Wake County would be about as fun to work for as the Wake County School Board. I would rather be on welfare. Wouldnt trust the CC with last months lunch. They going to be looking for work again after the next election so it is just a temporary job.

  • stymieindurham Aug 19, 2013

    Just watch and see how high the competative pay rate goes. Then see who whines!!!

  • WralCensorsAreBias Aug 19, 2013

    Maybe it's because most don't like their Mayor.

    You know, the one we've barely heard from since Meeker got her elected.