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SUNSET BEACH — The town of Sunset Beach has hired a new town administrator, it was announced at town council’s monthly meeting Monday night.
Susan Parker is scheduled to begin her new duties with the town on Dec. 9.
Parker will replace current town administrator Gary Parker (no relation), who has been with the town since December 2007 and plans to retire.
According to a press release issued Tuesday by Sunset Beach Town Clerk Lisa Anglin, the newly hired administrator has had more than 20 years of experience in planning and management. Her most recent years have involved serving as town manager with the town of Crested Butte, Colo., where her responsibilities included overseeing operation of an amenities-based resort community with 37 full-time employees, 11 seasonal employees and an annual budget of $10 million.
Sunset Beach launched a search for a new administrator in June, with 145 resumes submitted. Anglin said a blind reading process narrowed that number to 23 contenders. Remaining candidates were sent a series of essay-type questions “addressing specific scenarios.”
Town council held Skype interviews with the top three candidates, who were brought to Sunset Beach for two-hour interviews. The candidates also met with department heads and toured town facilities.
Susan Parker is lauded by town officials for her varied professional experiences. She was emergency communications manager in Reno, Nev., where she spearheaded and managed development of a regional 911 center and directed all aspects of a move into a state-of-the-art facility. She also supervised 69 employees and oversaw a $6.2 million budget.
She is described as a hands-on administrator who has her own hard hat. During an interview, she said she’s used to being on-site and isn’t afraid to get her hands or feet dirty. She said she believes in a team-oriented, collaborative management style that includes weekly management team meetings.
Susan Parker said she also will often perform once-a-day “walkabouts” to offices and visit public works and construction projects to observe and do follow-up. Citing her background in emergency management, Parker also participated in ride-alongs with public safety agency staff and encouraged elected officials to participate, as well.
Her interview exhibited “extensive expertise” in budgeting, customer service and staff supervision, according to town officials.
She has a master’s degree in public affairs and public administration from the Robert M. Lafollette Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin and a bachelor’s degree in policy studies from Beloit College in Wisconsin.
During Monday night pre-meeting agenda work session, town councilwoman Karen Joseph said 2,100 people have been hooked up to sewer, and all but 50 people on the island.
Jeff Viscount and Suzanne Bland with Bike MS: Breakaway to the Beach said this year’s fourth event, which ended in Sunset Beach in September, drew more than 900 cyclists and raised about $700,000.
They presented town councilman Wilson Sherrill with a framed photograph of the finish line in Sunset Beach.
During public comment, Sunset Beach resident Charlie Nern said it puzzles him the North Carolina Department of Transportation has money to do a roundabout at the mainland intersection leading to the bridge but doesn’t have money for a traffic light.
“It’s costing us a quarter-million dollars (for a roundabout),” he said, adding people aren’t going to be able to handle it as they already can’t handle a three-way stop at Shoreline Drive.
On a 4-1 vote, with town councilwoman Carol Scott casting the only “nay” vote, council approved acceptance of bids for stage 1 development of the town park.
Jeff Thompson, branch manager for Withers & Ravenel, the engineering and landscape architecture firm hired to design the town park, said the cost is larger than previously expected and estimated it is $498,000 instead of $457,000.
He believes they are still within the total park development cost of $840,000 that includes a concrete-based PermaTrak walkway, restrooms, bulkhead, benches, swings and a fishing pier. Stage 2 development includes a picnic pavilion and overlook.
“I’m a little hard-pressed how you’re going to get all of that done for that price,” Scott said.
Thompson said he believes it can be done with the money that’s left, or perhaps they’ll have to look at reducing things like the number of swings or benches.
“Right now we’re hoping we can still get it done,” he said. “If we get over budget, we have to negotiate something out within ourselves before we take a bid or negotiate with the contractor.”
Town administrator Gary Parker said the town can afford to spend more.
Joseph said Stage 1 is the basis of the project.
“We all discussed at great length the type of trails we wanted because we thought they were the most economically efficient over the long term,” she said.
Town councilman Mike Williams made a motion to accept the bid of $498,000 so Withers & Ravenel can proceed. The motion was seconded by town councilman Wilson Sherrill. Scott said she was voting “nay” because she still has concerns about the width of the paths.
Following discussion about plants and a possible Christmas tree at the center of the future roundabout, council also approved landscaping for the new roundabout.
Parker said the matter needed to be fast-tracked to meet the North Carolina Department of Transportation schedule to have the roundabout completed by May 24.
Council also approved reducing the speed along Sunset Boulevard from Wisteria Lane down to Station Trail from 45 to 35 mph.
Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.