No unity on manager vote
County commissioners representing High Point had their differences Friday over hiring Brunswick County Manager Marty Lawing for the vacant county manager’s job.
The Board of Commissioners voted 6-3 along party and racial lines early Friday. Lawing, who emerged as the leading candidate for the job earlier this month, did not attend the board meeting that ended after midnight Friday.
"I'm very honored to have the opportunity to work with the board of commissioners and county staff and serve the people of Guilford County," Lawing said later.
Republican Commissioner Bill Bencini and Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis, both of High Point, had differences over Lawing’s diversity hiring background and the pay offered him. Democratic Commissioner Kay Cashion was the only Democrat to vote for Lawing.
Diversity: “I was not surprised on the split vote. I think we have a good person with a great deal of experience and he is well qualified for the job. He said he made an effort to bring more diversity to Brunswick, but he was not successful in getting qualified applicants for the jobs.”
Pay: “We had to pay that amount of money to get a qualified person. It was in the range we had. That is what it took.”
Carolyn Coleman and Ray Trapp, the other African-American Democratic Commissioners on the board, voted against Lawing. Coleman and Davis complained that the runner-up candidate, an experienced African-American administrator, had better scores in the ranking process and was the leader of a larger government.
Diversity: “The strike against the other candidate was the color of his skin. He was better qualified than the one chosen for the job who was chosen based on the color of his skin. If you looked at other things, the runner-up was better qualified. Lawing did not hire one African-American in Brunswick County.”
“I expected the split vote. The Republicans made up their minds even before we had the personal interview here with Lawing.”
Pay: “You wonder if he is worth it. He said he’d work for $175,000 which is the pay you’d expect in a large county.”
Trapp said his vote against Lawing had nothing to do with race.
“I can’t vote for him for the sake of unity,” Trapp said. “He comes from a small county and there are differences between Brunswick and Guilford.”
Lawing said the split vote was not totally unexpected.
"You always prefer a unanimous vote," he said. "I respect the right of commissioners to vote their convictions. I respect that process."
The Guilford County manager directly supervises 650 of the county’s 2,300 employees. Brunswick County has 940 employees.
Chairwoman Linda Shaw, a Greensboro Republican, said the vote to hire Lawing wasn’t racial. Republican Commissioners Jeff Phillips, Alan Branson and Hank Henning of Jamestown also voted for Lawing.
“I feel he will take us forward,” Shaw said. “ I look forward to his coming here.”
Lawing will succeed Brenda Jones-Fox who retired Jan. 31. Sharisse Fuller, assistant manager, has been interim manager. She also is the county’s human resources director.
Guilford County has had four managers since 2000. Commissioners named Jones-Fox, then county finance director, interim manager in 2008 following the sudden retirement of former County Manager David McNeill and promoted her in 2009.
Occupation: Manager Brunswick County government for 12 years. To start work in Guilford County no later than May 6.
Experience: Served as city administrator for the South Carolina cities of Bennettsville, Bishopville and Conway before becoming Brunswick County manager in 2001.
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science at Appalachian State University.
Professional: Member of the international and N.C. city and county management association.
Proposed salary: $183,000 up from $176,000 in Brunswick County.