LUMBERTON — County Manager Ricky Harris declined to comment on Monday’s request by the president of the local branch of the NAACP that the county and his civil rights organization “partner” in the search for a black to serve as an assistant county manager.
“That’s personnel,” Harris said. “I’m not saying anything about that.”
Harris will review the applications for the open assistant manager’s position and recommend to the commissioners who should get the job. The position has been advertised since October.
During Monday’s meeting, Robert Davis, the newly installed president of Robeson County’s branch of the NAACP, asked the board to hire a black assistant county manager — and that the NAACP be enlisted in the search process.
“The NAACP aims its mission as to ensure the political, economic, educational and social equality of all people and to eliminate racial hatred … within the boundaries of our county,” Davis told the board.
Davis emphasized that the next assistant manager should meet all of the requirements set by the county, which, he said, are similar to those set by the NAACP. He also told the board that any black chosen for the assistant manager’s position should be one that is acceptable to the black community.
“I believe the two parties can work together to ensure that the requirements of the position are met,” Davis said. “…Working together we can bring great harmony among all the people (of all races).”
In the past the county has had two assistant managers, but there has only been one since Harris became the county’s interim manager when former Manager Ken Windley retired in November 2010. Harris had been an assistant county manager before being elevated to his current position.
The position to be filled is the one that has been held on an interim basis by Charles Britt, the county’s fire marshal and director of Emergency Services, since former Assistant County Manager Rod Jenkins, who is black, left in June 2011 to become deputy director of Human Services for the Cumberland County Health Department. Britt, who is white, has told The Robesonian that he has applied for the job.
Harris has stated previously that he does not know if the commissioners will eventually move to hire a second assistant county manager.
In other business, the commissioners approved a resolution setting the specific boundaries for property that will serve as the site of a dental school that the East Carolina University Dental School of Medicine plans to open in Lumberton. To move the project forward, the city of Lumberton will also have to approve the site as a minor subdivision, according to County Attorney Hal Kinlaw.
The 2.5 acres of land is located in front of Pinecrest Country Club, near the county Department of Social Services on N.C. 711, and adjacent to the Pinecrest Village subdivision. The county has donated the land, valued at about $30,000, to the school.
The university plans to set up a Community Learning Center on the site, one of 10 such facilities it wants to open in rural areas across the state. The center will provide a community-based site for fourth-year dental students and post-graduate students who will provide free and reduced-cost dental care to area residents.
In other business, the commissioners: Heard a report from Ronald Oxendine, the director of the county’s Housing Authority, who reported that there are few vacancies at the county’s four sites, which include a total of 300 units. Interior renovations are currently going on at the West Gate complex, he said, with 40 of the 100 units now completed.
— Tabled appointments to the county’s Parks and Recreation Committee.
— Recessed Monday’s meeting until the beginning of their annual three-day retreat on Jan. 30 at the county’s Emergency Operations Center.