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CALABASH—Town commissioners have hired a new town administrator.
Vincent Long III of Pinehurst accepted the commissioners’ offer and signed a contract Monday afternoon.
His first day as town administrator will be next Tuesday, July 1, interim town clerk Kelley Southward said.
Long previously has worked as an administrator at several “fairly large” towns and small cities out-of-state, including California, Mayor Pro Tem Forrest King said Tuesday.
With his extensive experience, “he made a heck of a good impression on the entire board,” King said.
“His basic knowledge came through in the interview,” King said. “When he got up and walked out, everybody there was like, this guy knows the ropes.”
King said Long was among four applicants who were interviewed and made a strong impression on commissioners.
He said about 70 people applied for the position. Of those, nine candidates were called in for interviews.
Last week, commissioners decided to offer their first-choice candidate for town administrator a starting salary of $55,000.
The decision came at a specially called open meeting June 18 to discuss salary and other terms of employment for the vacant town administrator position.
The salary is higher than that of previous administrator Donna Prince, whose contract was terminated in February. Commissioners agreed to buy out the remainder of Prince’s contract, which was to have expired in November, for an estimated $35,000. Prince said her annual salary was $45,000.
“Calabash has to remain competitive,” Mayor Anthony Clemmons said after commissioner Emily DiStasio questioned a suggested salary in the $60,000 range.
DiStasio said if it were Ocean Isle Beach, she’d say to pay in the mid $60,000 range.
“But we are li‘l ol’ Calabash,” she said, noting the town has no fire department, no police department, nor certain other departments typically associated with larger town governments.
At commissioners’ last monthly meeting June 10, Clemmons said they have received “unbelievable resumes for town administrator.”
A committee, he added, would narrow down the applications.
DiStasio, who oversees personnel matters for the town, was instructed to call the unnamed male candidate (Long) to offer a salary range and see if he is still interested in the administrative position.
“We can’t identify that person at this point in time,” Mayor Pro Tem Forrest King said last week.
Commissioner John Melahn said the $53,000 range suggested by town commissioner Cecelia Herman, “to me, that’s kind of low-balling.”
He said a $60,000 figure is closer to being in the low-to-starting range.
“Not in the state,” Herman responded, adding the local area average is $66,000 for towns that have their own police, fire and public works departments as well as higher populations. At last count, Calabash’s population is 1,420.
“If we start out too high, there’s no room for an increase,” Clemmons said.
“We set the range, so you can’t necessarily say that,” Melahn said. “We can change the salary range.”
King said the amount has to be reasonable “if we want to get a good guy, a shot at getting him. Not necessarily top, but 60 [thousand dollar range] anyway.”
As for other terms in the proposed contract, DiStasio suggested a stipulation requiring the administrator to be a citizen of Brunswick County be changed to “citizen of the United States.”
Commissioners agreed to a three-month probationary period for the newly hired administrator.
Herman noted the agreement is negotiable and not set in stone until it’s signed by the candidate and town commission. She said termination terms also have to be determined.
Following the discussion, commissioners went into an unrelated closed session to discuss personnel. When they emerged from the 10-minute session, the town’s five commissioners unanimously voted to terminate the employment of Jackie Vereen, a part-time town services employee, effective immediately.
The department is in trouble from a lack of help, King said prior to the closed session, requiring commissioners’ immediate attention.
“It’s very important to the town of Calabash,” Clemmons said, adding the matter should not be put off until commissioners’ next regular monthly meeting slated for July 8.
Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.