July 2006 Highlights

The big city news of July was the hiring of a new city manager.

New city manager hired: After a productive search and interview process, the City Council and Mayor were pleased to be able to quickly reach a decision on hiring Winston-Salem’s new city manager. The stability and productivity of a skilled 26-year manager like Bill Stuart is a tough act to follow. In order to be sure that we had a strong field from which to select a successor, the council advertised nationally, and used an experienced management consulting firm to help attract and screen good applicants. From a field of over 40 applicants, we went through two stages of screening to select a pool of six finalists for in-person interviews with the council and mayor acting as a whole. During those interviews, we had the chance to get a feel for the personality of the applicants, ask detailed questions about their experience, and evaluate their ideas and priorities. The finalists were a strong field, with coast-to-coast experience, and any one of the six would have been a qualified and competent manager. The final selection of then-assistant city manager Lee Garrity reflected an evaluation that the combination of his ideas, personal skills, and long inside experience with our community made him the best choice.

I will note here two of Lee’s good ideas for priority action within his first year of office, which I believe represent important ways to continue to improve our city services. First, he correctly identified the need for faster completion of capital improvement projects (like roads and greenways) as an area for attention. Second, he proposes to reorganize city code enforcement (housing, environmental, zoning) and improve handling of citizen service calls (sanitation, code enforcement, etc.). At present, most city departments provide good service when a citizen reaches the right person. However, it is far too easy for citizens to get shuffled among departments and offices, their messages misplaced, or follow-through dropped. Setting up a call receiving and handling center, and reorganizing the code enforcement process, should help with those concerns. The mayor and council expect to see continued progress and good steady service from our new manager.

Storm impacts—Who ya gonna call? Summer is thunderstorm time, and our area has recently experienced high storm winds and heavy rains on more than one occasion. Most everyone knows to call Duke Energy in the event of a power outage, but what about later cleanup on other problems? Here are some tips:

  • Downed branches: Trees down in the street are emergency calls, but pickup of brush piles is a more routine service matter. The city’s Sanitation Department at 748-3080 can adjust brush collection routing to address hard-hit areas.

  • Stormwater issues: Again, severe flooding is an emergency issue, but there can also be a need to look later at fixing the root cause—e.g., blocked drains, new development runoff, undersized piping. City Streets/Stormwater at 748-3070 can be the place to call for follow-through response.

  • Sedimentation/erosion: What if mud is running off a construction site into your street, yard, or stream? Call Erosion Control at 727-2388.

 In all of these cases, you may want to make a note of who you spoke with and when. Then, if there need for later follow-up, you (or I) will know where to start.

Otherwise, this July was a relatively light month for city business. Activity is sure to pick up again as we approach the autumn. In the meantime, you’re always welcome to contact me with other questions or concerns at danbesse@danbesse.org or 722-1674.