Graham’s plan for announcing a new city manager Friday morning may have been thrown into question by the sudden resignation of the designated appointee from her current municipal post on Thursday.
The Alamance News had learned that Graham’s council intended to extend a contract offer to Megan Garner, who has been the town manager of Rural Hall in northern Forsyth County for the past four years.
A special meeting at 11:00 a.m. at Graham city hall had been called Monday for the purpose of approving a contract for a new city manager.
In coming to Graham, Garner would go from managing a town of about 3,000 to Graham, where recent Census figures put the population at 17,157. Garner is slated to become Graham’s first female city manager.
But a major upheaval in Rural Hall on Thursday has resulted in the sudden resignation of three of the town’s five council members in the small town, as well as its town manager, Garner.
According to a report from WXII News Thursday, a Thursday morning city council meeting resulted in the resignation of Rural Hall mayor pro tem John McDermon, and two city council members, Ricky Plunkett and Jesse Stigall.
According to the TV news report, Garner was not present for Thursday’s meeting in Rural Hall but had sent in her letter of resignation.
The Alamance News had understood that one of the issues to be discussed Friday morning in Graham was when Garner might arrive at her new job here inasmuch as it appeared she might be required to give 90 days’ notice in her Rural Hall post, which would have put her arrival in Graham in January.
Graham mayor Jerry Peterman, who was expected to join the Graham special meeting Friday morning from Arizona, had previously told the newspaper that the new manager, whom he did not name, was a consistently top pick among Graham’s council members, ultimately becoming the hands-down favorite among all five members.
Two new Rural Hall council members were appointed to the town council Thursday morning, according to WXII News – Eddie Horn and Terry Bennett, two challengers who are on the November 2 ballot for town council in Rural Hall. The two incumbents who are on the ballot for the two available seats, Plunkett and Stigall, were among those resigning on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the town recruited the town’s veteran retired town manager, Frank James, to return as interim town manager following Garner’s sudden departure. Garner had replaced James in 2017; James had been town manager for 38 years.
Rural Hall sources were silent about the reasons behind the sudden uproar there.
While rumors swirled in Rural Hall and Graham Thursday night about the underlying cause for the upheaval on the Rural Hall town council and of Garner’s sudden departure, The Alamance News could not substantiate one by press time.
One of the new council members complained to WXII about the number of closed meetings that had been held recently, but no subject matter was disclosed.
WXII reported that it had submitted a public records request asking for the resignation letters. Councilman Ricky Plunkett was the only person WXII was able to get into contact with, the station reported. Plunkett would not comment to the news station except to suggest that they get in touch with the town attorney, who, the station said, had not yet returned a reporter’s call.
A special meeting for Monday has also been called for the Rural Hall town council with an agenda including discussion about an interim town attorney; “various topics related to town staff and town governmental processes”; and to hold a closed meeting to discuss personnel.
Designee Garner’s background
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 today’s developments.
Garner is slated to succeed Frankie Maness, who left Graham’s employ in February to become county manager in Montgomery County.
Council members have repeatedly tried to persuade assistant manager Aaron Holland to take the top position, 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.