Graham’s city council has voted unanimously to hire Megan M. Garner, who resigned yesterday as Rural Hall’s town manager, as Graham’s new city manager. [See separate story about the hubbub in that town in which three of five city councilmen also resigned.] She is expected to begin November 15.
In coming to Graham, Garner will go from managing a town of about 3,351 to Graham, where recent Census figures put the population at 17,157. Garner is slated to become Graham’s first female city manager.
Graham’s council acted after a 1-hour and 20-minute closed session at which Garner was present for a portion of the meeting.
Mayor Jerry Peterman chaired both the open and closed portions of the meeting electronically from Arizona, where he is visiting his son, daughter-in-law, and only grandson.
In the first portion of the meeting and the closed session, Peterman was on a video screen by Zoom; when the council reconvened after the closed session, technical difficulties resulted in him participating remotely by telephone.
The vote to offer Garner the job at a rate of $120,000 annually and to extend the offer in the form of a formal contract was unanimous among the five-member council. Garner’s salary in Rural Hall has been $111,514, according to a report in the Winston-Salem Journal.
There was some confusion at the meeting over whether Garner had actually accepted the contract which envisions her starting the Graham job on November 15.
In an interview with The Alamance News from Arizona, Peterman clarified that she has, in fact, accepted. She has signed a copy of the contract that was given to The Alamance News after the meeting. Only Peterman’s signature is missing, and he said he would go through the formality of signing when he returns.
Peterman announced, prior to the four council members present leaving the council chambers to into the closed portion in an adjacent conference room, that those also to be present in the closed session would include: Garner; one of the city’s attorneys, Bryan Coleman; interim city manager Aaron Holland; Billy Clayton, an investigator with the Graham Police Department; and Lorrie Andrews, the city’s human resources director.
In the interview after the meeting, Peterman said Garner had been present for about 15 minutes of the Graham council’s closed session. “Nothing that we heard in the closed meeting or read in the news [yesterday, apparently referring to the resignations in Rural Hall] changed our minds,” the mayor said, emphasizing that the support for bringing her in as the new city manager had been unanimous. “We’re giving her the benefit of the doubt,” he added.
“There might be some problems in Rural Hall,” the mayor said in commenting on the sudden resignations yesterday of three town council members. As for Garner’s own resignation, which was reported to have been made at Thursday’s town council meeting in Rural Hall, Peterman said Garner had explained that she had submitted it earlier in the week although the Rural Hall town council accepted it during their Thursday meeting.
Peterman said his understanding was the council accepted her resignation on a 4-1 vote. Peterman said he understood that the council there had also released her from a 90-day clause in her contract, allowing her to make the move immediately.
[See separate story with some of the explanations from council members who resigned.]
Peterman noted that Billy Clayton had been present as the representative of the Graham Police Department who had done “all of the background check” on Garner, both before yesterday’s Rural Hall resignations and since.
In commenting on the relative size of the municipalities, Peterman noted that Graham has never hired someone from a city near its size.
Chris Rollins came as an assistant city manager “straight out of N.C. State,” the mayor noted, adding that Frankie Maness, who was originally hired as an assistant under Rollins and was ultimately elevated to city manager, had come to Graham from the much smaller community of Warsaw in eastern North Carolina. “We never had a real experienced city manager [when they start],” he summarized.
Garner had also served as a former county manager in Anson County in southeastern North Carolina for about a year and a half between 2016 until moving to the Rural Hall job in 2017.
Garner grew up in Harnett County in eastern North Carolina. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science in 2005 and her master’s in public administration in 2007, both from East Carolina University.
When Garner completed graduate school, she began work as the clerk to the Moore County Board of Commissioners, then did grant writing in the public works department. She gradually took on more responsibilities during her time with Moore County, according to a biographical story published in 2016, before moving to become Anson County’s manager in 2016.
According to biographical sketches published at the time she took her Anson post, Garner has two young children, about ages 9 and 7.
Among a Graham council that has often had various 3-2 splits on a number of policy and zoning issues, the decision to hire Garner had been unanimous, The Alamance News had learned prior to the meeting.
Peterman had previously told the newspaper that the new manager, whom he did not at that point identify, was a consistently top pick among Graham’s council members, ultimately becoming the hands-down favorite among all five members. He reiterated that the consensus remained even in the midst of the Rural Hall publicity of Thursday’s council resignations.
Garner is slated to succeed Frankie Maness, who left Graham’s employ in February to become county manager in Montgomery County. Maness was making $138,703.22 at the time of his departure. The council raised assistant city manager Aaron Holland’s salary from $112,005 as assistant city manager to $120,000 as interim city manager.
Council members have repeatedly tried to persuade Holland to take the top position permanently, but Holland consistently demurred, citing his desire to spend time with his own young children and concerns about potential nights and weekend work for unexpected issues in Graham.
While he has served since February as interim city manager, he is expected to revert to his previous post as assistant Graham city manager.
See earlier story with background on Rural Hall resignations: https://alamancenews.com/plan-for-friday-announcement-of-new-graham-city-manager-may-be-thrown-into-question/