The search for Swansboro’s new town manager is over before it started.
Paula Webb, assistant town manager and town clerk, currently serving as interim manager, will be losing the interim from her job title in two weeks.
When they met on Monday, Nov. 8, commissioners were prepared to begin the process of finding a replacement for Chris Seaberg, who resigned in October. However, as the panel was about to adopt the agenda, Commissioner Frank Tursi asked for it to be amended.
The meeting took place online utilizing the Zoom platform.
Tursi citied the fact that Commissioner Laurent Meilleur, participating online, was out of the country in a drastically different time zone.
Tursi then suggested the discussion on mobile food vendors be tabled and the only other actionable item on the agenda, setting out plans for a manager search, be put off in favor of a closed session to discuss personnel.
A motion and second to that effect was approved by a 5-0 vote.
So as the panel was about to go silent on the computer screen, Mayor John Davis apologized to the half dozen or so people logged into the meeting.
“We are not going to discuss the issues may have joined us for,” he said. And he added that he did not expect the board to take any action – other than to adjourn, presumably – once coming out of closed session.
But Tursi spoke up, saying the board may be taking action.
When the panel returned to the public arena at 6 p.m., Davis had an announcement.
“Alissa Fender is our new clerk of the town of Swansboro,” he said, and allowed Fender, assistant town clerk, a chance to speak.
“I’m very excited to continue to work with everybody,” she said.
Then Davis said, “And we get to announce Paula Webb is our new town manager.” To Webb, Davis said, “Congratulations. As our new town manager, welcome.”
Webb, in reply, said, “Thank you, I appreciate it, I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
For now, the promotions are not official. No vote was taken in open session as required by the N.C. Open Meetings Law.
“It will be formalized after the contract is prepared and signed, which will be in two weeks,” Cliff Parson, attorney for the town, explained in an email. “Paula and I will negotiate/draft the contract prior to the next meeting, where we’ll go into closed session to formally approve and sign the contract.”
But delaying the official appointments did not dampen the mood on Monday.
“I’m excited that we’ve made the choices we’ve made,” Tursi said at the meeting. “It is critically important for the town to have a strong manager who understands the type of government we have here. I think Paula is the right person for this position.”
“I’m ecstatic about the position being filled by the staff,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the future of the town of Swansboro.”
Commissioners Larry Philpott, PJ Pugliese and Pat Turner, were also all in support of the plan.
“I’m very excited to do both these promotion,” Pugliese said. “Both these ladies have been huge assets to the town. I’m happy for the town. We’ve made good choices here.”
Philpott pointed out there was great value in the experience Webb and Fender bring to the jobs.
“I’d just like to add my congratulations,” he said. “I look forward to working with both of them.”
Turner said, “I have worked with Paula for many, many years. I couldn’t be happier for both of them.”
Email Jimmy Williams at email@example.com.