Following a brief closed session meeting on the morning of New Year’s Eve, Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti announced that former Carolina Beach town manager Tim Owens would assume the position of Wrightsville Beach’s town manager. After resigning from the position at Carolina Beach in November, Owens applied for the Wrightsville Beach job when Cignotti and the board of aldermen made the decision to reopen the job posting for another 30 days.
With a 17-year career in local government in coastal North Carolina communities like Carolina Beach, Shallotte, Kitty Hawk and Pamlico County, and 14 of those years in a managerial capacity, Owens said he was ready to bring his experience to Wrightsville Beach.
“Some things may just be meant to be and I’m excited to start,” Owens said. “It worked out that Wrightsville Beach re-advertised at the same time that I was looking for a job.”
Owens officially starts his new job on Tuesday, Jan. 8, with a salary of $86,000. That starting salary is roughly $12,000 less than what he was earning at Carolina Beach, but he could see an increase following a six-month probationary period.
In the beginning Owens will familiarize himself with the town’s procedures and the budgeting process. Owens' working relationship with interim town manager Tony Wilson and former town manager Bob Simpson could be helpful in that process.
“Bob and I talked periodically about different issues so I know Bob pretty well, but I will just have to hit the ground running Tuesday morning,” he said. “Bob spoke very highly of staff and I have seen nothing but that yet.”
In response to the hire of Owens, Mayor Cignotti said he was glad the board exercised patience in the search for the new town manager.
“I thought we did a good job of not being in a hurry in this process and I thought it worked to our benefit, and hopefully we have someone that will be with us for a long time,” Cignotti said. “It worked out very well and I think we got the right person.”
Although the town initially planned to host a public meet and greet for the top two candidates for town manager, Cignotti said the board was so unanimously in favor of Owens that it would have been unfair to the second candidate to hold such an event when the board had already resolved to choose Owens.
Cignotti also said Owens’ sudden resignation from Carolina Beach in November was not much of a concern for the board because of the unique political element in the town manager position.
“Town managers work in political environments and sometimes things happen that are to their detriment, but that doesn’t mean they are not doing an excellent job,” he said. “Most jobs don’t have a political environment that you have to deal with.”
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Sisson said Owens’ reputation with the staff at Carolina Beach spoke for itself.
“The staff down at Carolina Beach had nothing but praise for him,” Sisson said. “So when your staff says this guy is terrific to work with then that is a pretty good indication that he knows how to work with people.”
With the important issues facing Wrightsville Beach in 2013 like the FY 2013-14 budget and the upcoming beach renourishment project, Cignotti said he feels confident in Owens’ abilities.
“Tim has extensive budget experience so that was great that we were able to get him on board before we really got into the budget,” Cignotti said. “He also has been heavily involved in beach nourishment so he understands about the details and intricacies in that and also the funding mechanisms so he will be heavily involved in the funding for next year’s nourishment.”
Sisson also said communication and interface with the community are very important aspects of the town manager position, and that Owens would be adept at handling those tasks.
“We’ve got some strong personalities here in town so you don’t want someone who is just going to cave,” Sisson said. “At the same time you want somebody who is going to have an open mind and is going to deal with people fairly, regardless of their social status, economic status or anything else because that is not the job of government.”