Morris objects to the hiring process
DANBURY — County Manager Shannon Shaver had the “interim” tag removed from her title on Monday afternoon by the Stokes County Commissioners, but not without some drama first.
Shaver, who served as Assistant County Manager under Jake Oakley, who has retired, has served as interim since August.
A couple of county citizens had concerns with the new contract for the position during the time for public comments, particularly its length of five years. But in making the motion to approve the new hire, Commissioner Sonya Cox sought to address some of those questions by saying that the contract should instead be for three years — what the previous manager had — and adding a clause about a yearly performance evaluation.
“We’re promoting from within,” Cox continued. “She’s the right choice. She’s brought this Board into the 21st century and does so much that people don’t realize or know about because she’s not one to toot her own horn. We don’t appreciate her enough publically. She’s consistent and trustworthy, and has shown a willingness to learn things she doesn’t know. Shannon knows our county; our county’s unique and we all know this. She understands our people, our departments.”
“I can’t support the contract,” Commissioner Rick Morris said as the Board prepared to vote on the matter. “I think the last time this job was competed was when I competed for it in 2011. It’s the senior job in the county. We’ve got the salary up where we’re very competitive with other counties now. I can’t see any scenario where you would take a position at this level or really any level and not go through the fair process of competition and allowing other folks to compete for the job. We have a lot of talented people in Stokes County.
“This isn’t related to Shannon at all. But it’s kind of a travesty to send that message. We’re tending to do this over and over and over again. Plus, why address this right now? There’s a primary coming up and a year from now we could have three new commissioners on the Board.”
Board Chair Andy Nickelston spoke up for Shaver. “We were blessed to get her back when she came back to help. Shannon has the full trust of this Board. She has my full confidence and she’s proven that in my three years on the Board. Shannon knows a lot of people in the community and is willing to help them out.”
“It’s not about Shannon and how good a job she does, it’s about us following our personnel procedures and setting an example for the other folks who work in the county,” Morris countered. “We go cycle after cycle with no competition. I call it ‘cronie’ hiring.
“I’m trying to understand this,” Nickelston interjected. “Is this about it being a woman?”
“Don’t twist it like that,” Morris responded. “I have a history of working with women and appointing them to key positions.”
Commissioner Ronnie Mendenhall then sought to be a mediator of sorts and move the Board to a vote on the motion, where it passed 3-1, with Morris opposed. (Commissioner Wayne Barneycastle was not at Monday’s meeting.)
As for Shaver, she said “I’m going to work my hardest and try my best to make everything as good as it can be.”
In another important action, and as a followup from the most recent Board meeting, when Eric Cramer, CEO of River Street made a presentation to the Board, on Monday the Commissioners approved a Request For Proposal (RFP) to start the process of expanding broadband in the county. Companies will have 60 days to respond with their bids.
Glen Knox provided a state template and worked with Manager Shaver and Glenda Pruitt in writing the RFP. He also issued a word of warning: “It’s hard to find fiber gear, wireless gear… everybody’s buying this. So the sooner you get the RFP out, the better you are. Right now there’s an 85-week backlog on fiber. It’s not getting any better. You don’t want to put something out there and set someone up to fail.”
“It’s a great RFP,” said Commissioner Morris, “but I would like to add wording that we would like successful bidder to do the work or help us look for and apply for outside funding. Make sure it’s focused on funding for unserved or underserved people. … We need to not miss this February funding window.”
In other business the Board:
*Approved a new water tower at 2320 Wall Loop Road as part of the Danbury/Meadows Water System Interconnection Project.
*Heard an update from Joan Sherif, director of the four-county Northwest Regional Library System, who thanked Commissioners for their ongoing support. Walnut Cove Librarian Christine Boles told the Board that the $600,000 loan on the building has been paid off two years early.
*Received a report from Tax Administrator Richard Brim.
*Received from Director Janice Pack a request to approve the newly revised Voluntary Agriculture District ordinance.
*Discussed updates to the Risk Management Plan for the county. The Assistant HR Director/Risk Management Coordinator and Administrative Aide for the Fire Marshal positions need to be updated.
*Discussed a lease agreement with the United Fund of Stokes County, which has requested to rent a vacant room in the bottom of the old school building to use for office space due to their current space no longer being available for rent.
*Discussed new representatives to the YVEDDI Board.
*Talked about a County employee Christmas Meal. The county did not do it last year, and Shaver said several department heads have asked about doing separate meals within their own departments.
*Approved appointments for VAYA Health’s Regional Board. The consensus of the Board was to designate DSS Director Stacey Elmes and Vice Chair Sonya Cox as representatives for Stokes County.
*Approved the sale of two parcels of surplus property.
*Approved hiring an additional position in the Sheriff’s Department as a sworn deputy who would work as a security guard for the courthouse.
*Heard Nickelston clarify remarks he made at the recent meeting of the Hospital Trustees. “Things have been said about the way I treated the administrator … Being transparent, that’s the point of what that meeting was. Nobody was rude or angry. … In my house we turned off the news over a year ago. I’ve done away with the Facebook app. I will not look at lies.”
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