HIGH POINT — City officials don’t plan to appoint permanent leaders for key departments such as police and economic development until a new chief executive is on board.
The city began 2021 with one vacancy and three interim members of its executive team, including Randy McCaslin, who has held the city manager position on a temporary basis since May 2020.
He plans to retire after the City Council hires his successor, presumably at some point this year.
McCaslin said the city is close to naming a permanent director for one department — Engineering Services — but he’ll defer to the next manager to select a police chief and economic development director.
He praised the interim heads of both departments — Travis Stroud and Sandy Dunbeck, respectively — but said he felt it was appropriate to give the new manager an opportunity to evaluate both positions.
“I told council early on that I felt like the police chief was one of those positions that the permanent manager should (appoint),” McCaslin said. “Travis and I discussed that and he was in agreement, and council was in agreement.”
McCaslin appointed Stroud, a 25-year veteran of the High Point Police Department, as interim chief following Ken Shultz’s retirement Aug. 1.
“He’s doing a tremendous job,” McCaslin said of Stroud. “I’m very happy that he was available to take over the interim position and very happy with his performance thus far.”
He named Dunbeck interim director of the High Point Economic Development Corp., replacing longtime EDC President Loren Hill, who retired Jan. 1.
Dunbeck has been with the EDC for 14 years, most recently as executive vice president.
“More than likely, that will remain an interim position until the new manager is on board,” McCaslin said. “Sandy has been here, she knows the operation. We fully expect things to continue as normal out of that department. They do a tremendous job and have had great successes, and we expect that to continue.”
Council members said they support McCaslin’s approach with both jobs.
“While I believe both of them are excellent and deserve the opportunity to apply for the job if they wish, I think it’s a good decision for (McCaslin) to allow the new manager to come in and have the option of continuing with (Stroud and Dunbeck) or going in a different direction,” said Councilman Michael Holmes. “It would be similar to a new head coach coming on and being able to bring their coaching staff along with them.”
Councilman Victor Jones pointed out that, under High Point’s charter, it’s the job of the manager — not the council — to hire most senior staff.
“I wouldn’t be against it if Randy said, ‘Here’s our new economic developer and our new police chief,’ but that’s not my call; that’s his call,” Jones said. “We just select the city manager, the attorney and the clerk. So ultimately, I’ve got to defer to (McCaslin), who’s been working in public service for 40 years.”
McCaslin said Friday that the city has completed interviews for the Engineering Services Department director position, and that an offer is being made to a preferred candidate.
“We hope to have someone hired the first part of (this) week,” he said.
The department has been without a permanent director since the July 2019 retirement of Keith Pugh. Terry Kuneff served as interim director from then until he retired Jan. 1.
The council is using executive search firm The Mercer Group to identify candidates for city manager.
Holmes said the consultant is gathering information from council members about the qualities they’re looking for in a manager before going nationwide with the search.
He said he believes the council should take as long as necessary to find the right person and he does not have a goal in mind as to when this should be.
“I would love to see someone who has a progressive mindset on how to grow a city and who has a background in people development,” he said.
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