Local planning, finance vacancies loom

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

December 31, 2013

The City of Clinton is still making its way through a transitional period, one that does not end with managerial staff but also includes the Clinton-Sampson Planning Department, which is seeking a new planner.

Clinton-Sampson Planning director Mary Rose, during a recent meeting with the Sampson Board of Commissioners, said the city was looking to hire another person to fill a planner position previously held by Audrey Whetten. She worked with the department for two years, assisting mostly in downtown Clinton matters during that time before leaving in August.

Rose hinted that a new planner would be branching out from the downtown. She has cited that three out of every four people who seek assistance from the joint city-county office are inquiring about county matters. A new planner would likely split time between the city and county, where Whetten was involved in moving the downtown forward, establishing new events and expanding older ones.

“The most recent person who filled this position spent a great deal of time assisting me in managing the Clinton Main Street Program, working on downtown and historic preservation efforts,” Rose said. “As we look to hire another person to fill this position, we realize it is imperative that any new hire must not only assist with downtown development, but also must have the skills to assist with permitting, mapping and other day-to-day operations.”

As the department looks for a new planner, city manager Shawn Purvis has similarly alluded to significant staffing transitions that are ahead in order to continue the high bar set for the city’s budgeting (it was recently awarded the Governors Finance Officers Association Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the fourth straight year).

Purvis said he expected the same standard to be upheld, if not one that was improved. As with the planning department, however, there are currently missing personnel pieces.

“We are still looking for a new finance director and that person will naturally have a learning curve with our budget,” Purvis said.

Purvis stepped into a dual role as assistant manager and finance director upon the city’s merging of the positions in 2011, and served in that capacity before being promoted to city manager earlier this year. That reorganization resulted in no increase in staff and, to maintain staffing levels, the city is now seeking to fill the vacant finance director position.

The assistant manager position is expected to remain vacant.

“(The finance director position) is one of the most difficult municipal positions to fill on its own merits, let alone trying to fill a combination assistant manager-finance director position,” Purvis stated.

Rose said she is similarly looking for a qualified person that is the right fit for both the City of Clinton and Sampson County.

For the Clinton-Sampson Planning Department, while there is roughly a 75-25 split in county planning and zoning matters to those involving the city, Rose said it is not at all uncommon to have all five employees in the department working on county matters at any given time. The new planner will likely split time between the two.

“Generally, this employee will spend 50 percent of their time on county projects, and 50 percent on city projects,” Rose noted.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at