Hamlet officials select new city manager


Appointment expected to be made official Tuesday

By Kevin Spradlin

Hamlet Mayor Bill Bayless and City Council have made their selection for a new city manager.

Marcus Abernethy, of Boone who earned a master’s degree in public administration from Appalachian State University, was identified by both the mayor and council as well as a four-member assessment panel. The appointment is expected to be made official, pending a routine background check and drug test, at the council’s Oct. 14 public meeting.

Marcus Abernethy

Marcus Abernethy

Bayless and all five council members interviewed Abernethy and two other candidates on Oct. 6. Abernethy’s session with the council lasted approximately 82 minutes. That same day, he was also interviewed by an advisory panel consisting of: Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump; Hamlet Human Resources Director; Dr. Rick Watkins, of Wingate University; Tammie Griffin, member at large; and a representative from the Lumber River Council of Governments. In addition, Edna Cumberland, city human resources director, facilitated the panel group but did not ask questions during the interview process.

Abernethy was reportedly offered the position with a starting salary of $60,000 — slightly more than former City Manager Marchell Adams-David’s starting salary but less than the approximate $78,000 per annum she made at the end of her tenure.

Councilman Jesse McQueen spoke highly of Abernethy but also that “the process worked.”

“Whenever we started the process, it was very huge for me to make sure that we need it in an effective manner,” McQueen said. “The city council agreed, at my request, to appoint an independent board to help interview our four top applicants. I made that suggestion and was proud to say that after some talk, everybody on the board agreed.”

The position attracted 33 applicants.

“We worked together as a complete board, narrowed those applicants to where we had four top applicants,” McQueen said.

Three were available for interviews.

“Everybody did a great job,” McQueen said. “City officials did a good job getting everything together. At the end of the day, Marcus just seems to be the fit that we’re looking for.”

Both the mayor and council and assessment panel members reached the same conclusion, McQueen said.

“He was our No. 1 candidate,” said Councilman Pat Preslar. “We feel like we’ got an A-plus candidate.”

According to his profile on LinkedIn, a social media network for business professionals, Abernethy’s most recent position is with the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, where he served as director of industry relations. Prior to that, he served a four-month management internship with the town of Matthews. In his position as management analyst, he assisted with the creation of the town’s downtown comic development organization, helped update the departmental strategic plans and performance measures, assisted with budget preparations and adoption process by performing tax and revenue analysis, and assisted in the selection and hiring process for a risk manager as well as a communications director position.

McQueen said Abernethy’s lack of experience doesn’t degrade the value of his candidacy.

“Our previous city manager started out with our city with very little experience,” McQueen said.

Adams-David began her 20-year career with the city of Hamlet as an intern, and ultimately moved up the ranks to assistant city manager and, for 13 years, served as city manager. Adams-David resigned in July to take a position with the city of Raleigh.

“This is something that has been done before,” McQueen said. “Quite frankly, I, personally, am looking for someone that’s gonna come in, work hard, do a good job for the city and move forward positively.”

Abernethy’s start date is not yet known. However, acting City Manager Tammy Kirkley is looking forward to returning to her job as city clerk.

Kirkley sat in on the interviews to take minutes for the mayor and council. She was not a part of the decision to make an offer to Abernethy.

“He interviewed very well,” Kirkley said. “He was very sincere, very passionate … like it wasn’t just a job for him.”

As for the ability to focus on her role as city clerk, “that feels really good. It’s going to be nice to wear one hat.”

McQueen said the city is ready to move beyond the controversy of recent past.

“I had spoke to several long-tenured city of Hamlet department heads,” McQueen said, “and the feedback that I have got from them, not specific to Marcus … they have bought in to the concept that we are moving forward. They are ready to move forward, ready to do good things. Hamlet is not at its lowest. We are going to the peak. I’ve said it for 10 months now: We’re moving forward and we’re going to do great things.”

Abernethy will have his work cut out for him — and an immediate opportunity to shape the city’s future, as there are vacancies in several department heads, including police chief, parks and recreation director and museum director.

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