The City of Clinton appointed its second interim city manager Tuesday as it continues the search for the next permanent manager, which Mayor Lew Starling said is going well with a selection expected “real soon.”
The decision to hire Leonard Barefoot came after a half hour closed session at the tail end of Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting. It was announced at that point that Thursday night would mark the end of Robert Hyatt’s tenure as interim and the beginning of Barefoot’s.
“Mr. Hyatt has done a wonderful job. He told us when he took this job ‘I can’t be with you forever,’ and Thursday will be his last day,” Starling informed city staff and those who waited through the closed session, upon reconvening the meeting. “We’ve gotten everything we could out of him. We can’t thank you enough.”
Hyatt has served in the interim post since former manager Shawn Purvis left in April for a position in Apex. Hyatt retired from local government in December 2015 after 34 years of service, serving as town manager of Wallace and Clayton, assistant manager of Brunswick County and 16 years as manager of Davidson County.
Hyatt reciprocated Starling’s thanks, and showered the City Council and staff with praise. He shared his gratitude for being allowed to serve alongside them.
“After being in this business for 30 years, I hadn’t lost my passion and interest in this,” said Hyatt. “You’re thanking me for this, but I’m thanking you for the opportunity to serve. I wish all of Clinton could hear me say this, but you’re very fortunate to have these people working here. You have a lot to be proud of. It’s going to be very difficult to leave.”
Barefoot, retired from the managerial post in Sanford, swore the oath, administered by Starling. Barefoot has served in seven interim positions.
Clinton’s city manager position is one of several that has been in flux this year.
In August, Austin Tew was named interim fire chief following the resignation of Scott Phillips, which marked the fourth department head vacancy for the city in 2017, coming on the heels of the retirements of Public Works director Jeff Vreugdenhil and Police Chief Jay Tilley and the resignation of City Manager Shawn Purvis.
Donald Edwards was named the new police chief in July.
Around that same time, Hyatt said the duties of Public Works director would be divided among other employees until a permanent replacement could be made. Staff engineer Russell Byrd has been overseeing wastewater treatment and water treatment plant activities, while Chris Medlin, distribution and collections superintendent, has been in charge of garage, sanitation, grounds, cemetery, streets and water/sewer line activities.
The interim period, Hyatt explained at the time, would allow time for the city to complete the hiring of a new city manager and for that person to have the opportunity “to evaluate and determine the appropriate management structure that will best serve the public works and utilities operations for the long term.”
Starling said the search for a permanent replacement is ongoing.
“That is going extremely well,” said Starling. “Hopefully, I’ll have some news on that real soon.”
A reception will be held next month to bid farewell to Councilman Steve Stefanovich, as well as officially welcome newly-elected Council members Daniel Ruggles, who succeeds Stefanovich in representing District 1, and Darue Bryant, elected after being appointed to the District 5 post earlier this year upon Maxine Harris’ passing. Starling and Councilman Marcus O. Becton were also elected last week, all running unopposed.
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