CAPE CARTERET — Although newly hired Town Manager Frank Rush’s $150,000 salary is roughly double what former manager Zach Steffey was earning when he resigned earlier this year to take the same post in Franklinton, Cape Carteret Mayor Will Baker said Thursday he is convinced the town can afford it now and in the future.
“We haven’t raised taxes in five years,” he said of the town’s property tax rate of 22.25 cents per $100 of assessed value, “and we’ve had a lot of growth. I don’t think we will need to raise taxes to pay his salary. But if we did have to increase by a penny, I think it would be worth it.
“We got who I think is the best manager we could possibly get,” the mayor added. “We couldn’t afford not to hire him.”
Rush, who was manager of Emerald Isle for more than 17 years before taking two managerial posts in California over the past few years, was hired as interim manager of Cape Carteret less than a month ago and was hired as manager by a 5-0 vote during a special meeting Wednesday.
Baker noted that Morehead City, Newport, Atlantic Beach and Pine Knoll Shores are also looking for managers.
“I was scared he (Rush) was going to say ‘No,’” the mayor said. “There was competition for him. I know that. If he was all about the money, we wouldn’t have been able to do this. We got lucky. After the meeting (Wednesday) I felt like getting everybody together and singing Kumbaya.”
When Rush left Emerald Isle in 2018, he was earning a salary of a little more than $140,000. When he was hired in Big Bear Lake, Calif., his salary was $235,000.
During his time in Emerald Isle, Rush was known for his ability to obtain millions of dollars in federal and state grants and to obtain consensus among town commissioners on issues. Baker said he believes the town’s new manager will continue to do that in Cape Carteret and will also bring an often-fractious board of commissioners together on issues.
Town Commissioner Steve Martin agreed with the mayor.
“I do not anticipate us raising taxes to pay this salary,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of growth (in revenue). I’m very happy we were able to do this. “He was very reasonable in what he wanted, and we were able to accommodate him. I think if we hadn’t done this now, while we had the opportunity, we’d be kicking ourselves down the road.
“This is really the first manager we’ve hired, and we couldn’t have done better,” Martin continued. “Zach was hired as a town administrator and then changed to manager after we changed the form of government.
“We now have a seasoned professional. We have a lot of things going on – finishing the Cape Carteret trail and addressing our stormwater issues – and I think it would be overwhelming for some people. But not him (Rush). I think our future is very bright.”
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.