Town Manager search winds into home stretch

mharrison@fortmilltimes.comNovember 6, 2012 

— Town Council held a special meeting last week to discuss a final list of candidates for Town Manager.

Council met last Thursday to being scheduling second interviews for three of seven candidates they previously met with the past couple of weeks. The final three candidates are current Fort Mill Assistant Town Manager Joe Cronin, Beaufort County Deputy County Administrator Bryan Hill and Nolan Wiggins Jr., the city manager of Abbeville, population 5,000.

Current, longtime Town Manager David Hudspeth gave his notice this past summer and will be stepping down effective Feb. 1.

Cronin, who’s been on the job for more than three years, said he met with council for “a little over an hour or so” and that since they all know him so well professionally by now the most interesting thing that came up was a personal anecdote.

“They asked me that standard question you get at any interview – ‘tell us something about yourself’ and I told them about how I came to South Carolina to go to USC where I was enrolled in the PhD program in political science,” Cronin said.

He also discussed some of the progress and projects he’s been involved in since he was hired by the town and that “there’s still a lot more to do.”

Hill has been in his current position since 2008, according to his resume, on which he lists a dozen key accomplishments, including “overseeing a $375 million budget and more than 800 staff,” “completing $180 million in roadway projects” and “instituted a five-year budget model and detailed operational analysis.”

He said that despite making the top three, he sees the process as far from over.

“Unfortunately it doesn’t feel any different than it did yesterday. It will feel good if I get the position, but at this junction I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and quite frankly it’s up to the mayor and his esteemed group of council people,” Hill said.

If he does get the nod, Hill said, he’d still have to clear the relocation with his wife but that if it does happen, “being part of the Fort Mill community would be great for my family. My personality is, the job is what I do, not what I am. Family comes first and foremost.”

Wiggins has been in his present job since 2007. According to his resume, he established a K-9 narcotics unit for the Abbeville Police Department and initiated the construction of a new fire house, among other accomplishments. He said Abbeville’s population may be deceiving in terms of his responsibilities there.

“Although Fort Mill is larger than Abbeville, we offer a lot of the same services and although it’s a smaller city, the workforce and budget are comparable in size,” Wiggins said.

“If fact, I think we have four more public employees than Fort Mill.”

Like Hill, Wiggins said he would appreciate being a member of the Fort Mill community.

“We visited a couple of times before the interview and that confirmed everything we thought about Fort Mill,” said Wiggins, who has three young daughters.

“It’s a beautiful area and there’s a lot going on there.”

He noted that Fort Mill is “a growing area” and that makes being town manager a more attractive job.

“There are a lot of opportunities with that and challenges are what keep the job interesting. You don’t want to see the same things day in and day out,” he said.

Officials said they plan to hold the new round of interviews over the next couple of weeks and make an offer to one of them by the end of the month.

“We have three very good candidates,” Fort Mill Councilman Larry Huntley said.

“We hope to have him in place so the new man can come in January 1.”

Councilman Thomas Spratt, who served on the council 30 years ago before returning after a long hiatus, said his main criteria is someone who can lead the town ahead of its next growth spurt.

“From my perspective, personally I wanted someone who had experience in the area we need leadership. David Hudspeth has done a marvelous job supervising the operation of the city and so we’re in pretty good shape in terms of department heads and the experience there, but when we look at long-range planning, we need someone who in my opinion has that ability to help us forecast what we need to do and then create ways to fund it,” Spratt said.

Among the growth-related issues he expects the next town manger to confront are “traffic issues, annexation issues, water and sewer growth and recreation needs. These are significant financial investments the town is going to have to make as we grow and we can’t have a rookie that’s never been involved in that stuff to lead us,” he said.

For Fort Mill Mayor Danny Funderburk, “the degree in separation for me is specific management experience and dealing with people/ having that skill set is extremely important. All these guys were interviewed are highly professional so the specific management experience is important for me.”

Asked if Cronin has an edge because of his position in the town, Funderburk said he believes from “promoting from within when possible,” but that it’s “an even competition for everybody.” He also said, “we think very highly of Joe and he will get the benefit of every consideration.”

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