Planning boards and boards of adjustment are not the same.

We’re doing these things wrong here in Ramseur, and I’m about to show you how, but first, we need to make sure we all understand what a quasi-judicial decision is.

Quasi-judicial decisions involve the application of ordinance policies to individual situations. Examples include variances, special- and conditional-use permits (even if issued by the governing board), appeals, and interpretations. These decisions involve two key elements—the finding of facts regarding the specific proposal and the exercise of judgment and discretion in applying predetermined policies to the situation. Since quasi-judicial decisions do not involve setting new policies, the broad public notice requirements that exist for legislative decisions do not apply. However, the courts have imposed fairly strict procedural requirements on these decisions in order to protect the legal rights of the parties involved. Quasi-judicial decisions are most often assigned to boards of adjustment, appointed by the governing board.

The critical part to remember is that quasi-judicial decisions are legal decisions that can wind up being examined and either upheld or overturned in a district or superior court, and things have gotten ugly and expensive either way if we find ourselves in court.

The governing body of the Town of Ramseur is the board of commissioners. By statute, the board of commissioners is empowered to appoint a number of subordinate boards; among them are the planning board and one called the board of adjustment.

Eight years ago or so those two boards were made up of the same members, but one day a question came along that required a quasi-judicial hearing from the board of adjustment, and along the way to the hearing someone realized there was a problem.

It turns out that there was a clause buried in statutes that said the planning board could offer a preliminary forum for review of quasi-judicial decisions, which they had already apparently done, provided that no part of the forum or its recommendation be used as a basis for the deciding board. That complicated things.

The statute has since been updated with similar, if not identical language, and incorporated into 160D – 301, as we will see below.

So the planning board went to the board of commissioners and said, “Hey, we’re not allowed to do this.”

Well, the board of commissioners had to get that decision decided, because money was involved and time is money, and since so few people in Ramseur have time or enough interest in managing an enterprise as complicated as a small town for a couple of hundred bucks a month or less, the commissioners quickly appointed themselves to be the board of adjustment.

Problem solved! Not so fast.

That solution worked because none of the commissioners had any conflicts of interest in the question being decided that day, and it’s worked a few more times since then, but it won’t work forever because some decisions a board of adjustment makes must be decided by a four-fifths (4/5) majority, and there’s also a statutory mandate for staggered three-year terms for board of adjustment members.

The other day when I was researching ETJ, I found a couple of sections in chapter 160D that apply specifically to planning boards and boards of adjustment, how they are to be composed, and what the function of an alternate should be.

The alternates our commissioners are constantly trying to recruit are supposed to be alternate members of the board of adjustment. They are not supposed to sit on the planning board, nor vote on planning board decisions.

See for yourself. The relevant sections of the statutes are copied below. Again, as with the last post, all bolding and CAPITALIZATION other than section headings are mine. Headings are linked to the source.

(a)    Composition. – A local government may by ordinance provide for the appointment and compensation of a planning board or may designate one or more boards or commissions to perform the duties of a planning board. A planning board established pursuant to this section may include, but shall not be limited to, one or more of the following:

(1)    A planning board of any size or composition deemed appropriate, organized in any manner deemed appropriate; provided, however, the board shall have at least three members.

(2)    A joint planning board created by two or more local governments pursuant to Part 1 of Article 20 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes. *This part doesn’t apply to us.

(b)    Duties. – A planning board MAY be assigned the following powers and duties:

(1)    To prepare, review, maintain, monitor, and periodically update and recommend to the governing board a comprehensive plan, and such other plans as deemed appropriate, and conduct ongoing related research, data collection, mapping, and analysis.

(2)    To facilitate and coordinate citizen engagement and participation in the planning process.

(3)    To develop and recommend policies, ordinances, development regulations, administrative procedures, and other means for carrying out plans in a coordinated and efficient manner.

(4)    To advise the governing board concerning the implementation of plans, including, but not limited to, review and comment on all zoning text and map amendments as required by G.S. 160D-604.

(5)    To exercise any functions in the administration and enforcement of various means for carrying out plans that the governing board may direct.

(6)    To provide a preliminary forum for review of quasi-judicial decisions, provided that no part of the forum or recommendation may be used as a basis for the deciding board.

(7)    To perform any other related duties that the governing board may direct.  (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)


Pay attention to sub-section (6) above. One of the statutory duties of a planning board is to “provide a preliminary forum for review of quasi-judicial decisions, provided that no part of the forum or recommendation may be used for a basis for the deciding board.”

Who or what is the deciding board? The board of adjustment!

  •  160D-302.  Boards of adjustment.

(a)    Composition. – A local government may by ordinance provide for the appointment and compensation of a board of adjustment consisting of five or more members, each to be appointed for three-year terms. In appointing the original members or in the filling of vacancies caused by the expiration of the terms of existing members, the governing board may appoint certain members for less than three years so that the terms of all members shall not expire at the same time. The governing board may appoint and provide compensation for alternate members to serve on the board in the absence or temporary disqualification of any regular member or to fill a vacancy pending appointment of a member. Alternate members shall be appointed for the same term, at the same time, and in the same manner as regular members. Each alternate member serving on behalf of any regular member has all the powers and duties of a regular member.

(b)    Duties. – The board shall hear and decide all matters upon which it is required to pass under any statute or development regulation adopted under this Chapter. The ordinance may designate a planning board or governing board to perform any of the duties of a board of adjustment in addition to its other duties and may create and designate specialized boards to hear technical appeals. If any board other than the board of adjustment is assigned decision-making authority for any quasi-judicial matter, that board shall comply with all of the procedures and the process applicable to a board of adjustment in making quasi-judicial decisions.  (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)


The board of adjustment can be the planning board, but the planning board can’t review or make recommendations in quasi-judicial decisions to be decided by the board of adjustment.

Either way, the alternates our commissioners are always searching for belong to the board of adjustment, not the planning board. There should not be alternate members on our planning board any more than there should be alternate members of the board of commissioners allowed to sit, discuss, and vote on issues before that board when a commissioner can’t attend meetings. Can you imagine the butt-hurt such a suggestion would cause?

We’ve been doing this, and a lot of other business, wrong in Ramseur for a very long time. I had hoped, almost four years ago, that the new board we elected in 2019 would be smarter than the old board members they replaced, and I don’t think I’m the only one disappointed today.

Statutes dictate three-year staggered terms for the board of adjustment members, and since our commissioners serve four-year terms, that solution doesn’t immediately meet the state’s mandate. A five-member board of adjustment, separate from the planning board, needs to be recruited and properly empaneled soon.

Our planning board should remain a five-person board, assuming there are five people living in Ramseur who are interested enough in that work to show up consistently and get it done; if not then maybe that board should be reduced to only three members.

Until such time as ETJ is adopted by Ramseur, no members of any board or commission should reside outside the municipal boundaries of the Town of Ramseur. If ETJ is adopted, any new members of the planning board should be in addition to the resident members, and those appointments must follow the procedures laid out in chapter 160D-307.

Regular and alternate members of a board of adjustment should be recruited with the understanding that those duties are only required on an as-needed basis. One or two sitting commissioners could do double duty as board of adjustment members, provided the state’s mandatory staggered three-year terms are observed. Former commissioners, former mayors, or perhaps members of the ABC board could also be persuaded to serve in those capacities if no other qualified candidates step forward.

It would be smart to have a list of qualified, willing alternates available should a member of the board of adjustment need to recuse him or herself from a decision. They could be vetted for conflicts of interest on a case-by-case basis, sworn in as needed, sit through a hearing, help render a decision, and get on with their lives.

Should Ramseur adopt ETJ?

What’s all this talk about ETJ and why does one of our commissioners want to add “outside citizens” – people who don’t live or pay property taxes in Ramseur – to the planning board? That was the main question on my mind when I left the regular January meeting of our board of commissioners. So I went back and watched the video of the December meeting again to see what I’d missed.

[NOTE: I embedded the video from the Town of Ramseur’s YouTube page below, but as you can see, the video owner – Town of Ramseur – has disabled playback anywhere but on YouTube. Not my circus.]

The work of managing our town’s affairs is overwhelming the administrative staff, and one commissioner has convinced his fellow board members that the solution is for the town to adopt ETJ and change the composition of our planning board.

We’ll get to those changes in a bit, but first, what is ETJ?

ETJ stands for extraterritorial jurisdiction. It is an area outside a municipality’s corporate limits in which the city can exercise land use and zoning regulations. 

“When a city adopts an extraterritorial-boundary ordinance, the city acquires jurisdiction for all of its ordinances adopted under Chapter 160D, and the county loses its jurisdiction for the same range of ordinances. This includes not only zoning and subdivision ordinances but also housing and building codes and regulations on historic districts and historic landmarks, open spaces, community development, erosion and sedimentation control, floodways, mountain ridges, and roadway corridors.”

How does adopting ETJ do us any good today? All I can see it doing for the moment is adding to the almost $224,000 we’re budgeted to spend this year on contracted and professional services and administrative salaries.  A little over $100,000 of that pays for our code enforcement/planning consultants, legal counsel, and any other consultants advising our clerk/finance officer and her staff. Some of that money would be better spent on a town manager.

According to comments made by Commissioner Parrish at the December and January board meetings, our local ordinances specified that our planning board is to be composed of five members. Chapter 160D of North Carolina General Statutes mandates a minimum of three members for such a board but otherwise leaves it to the discretion of local governments to decide how many members to appoint, and where those members can live.

Prior to the adoption of the commissioner’s amendment, which passed 4-0, only people residing within the municipal limits of Ramseur were eligible to sit on our planning board. Now, anyone living within one mile of town limits can be appointed and vote on our planning board’s decisions. Seems like that cart is way out in front of the horse.

The first justification we’ll likely hear for this change will be ‘nobody wants to serve’ so let’s stop for a moment and consider why it seems like no one stays on any board in this town for long. Since I moved into town in late 2014, eighteen different people have occupied the five seats on our board of commissioners. Eighteen different commissioners in less than ten years.

If we had replaced every commissioner in every municipal election held here since 2015, that would only have been ten individuals. Turnover on the planning board has been about as bad; maybe worse. My wife applied to fill an open seat in 2016 and was turned away. She’d have done well. In early 2020 I had a seat on the planning board for a few months, and I’d be happy to tell you why I quit.

The planning board is an insult to every citizen of Ramseur and will remain such until its chairman resigns. He lives in Greensboro, in Guilford County, and he has for years. He’s gotten away with it by claiming to live here on his voter registration, and probably on his driver’s license, and the fact that he owns a couple of rented houses on Bush Street.

Everyone connected to our local government knows this and has known for longer than I can remember. I refused to sit on that board while every elected official in town looked the other way at what I consider a crime on par with voter fraud.

Less than a month ago one of our elected commissioners convinced his fellow board members to alter the administrative ordinances of our town so people living up to one mile outside town can have a voice in our local government. Those folks are more than welcome to initiate voluntary satellite annexation. Pay taxes here like the rest of us; that’s how you get to have a voice in Ramseur.

The government we have today is every bit as dysfunctional as it was before the 2019 election, and in some ways, it may even be worse. This is why we can’t get better leaders to step forward in our community. Nobody wants to serve in elected or appointed office in Ramseur, because it’s not worth the heartache and misery.

A commissioner says our administrative staff is overworked and all the experts he talks to tell him that planning and zoning administration is usually done by a town manager. Those same experts also told him that under no circumstances should planning and zoning be administered by the chief financial officer. I could not agree more. Both jobs are far too important, time-consuming, and complicated for one individual to try to fill both roles.

Below I have copied the most relevant text from Chapter 160D, the statute the mayor and attorney Wilhoit regularly reference in board meetings when discussing planning, zoning, and code enforcement issues. I have tried to edit the text in such a way that you can easily read through it and understand what the state requires without wading through mountains of text irrelevant to our town. Other than the section headings, all bolding and CAPITALIZATION below are mine. You can compare the original text by clicking HERE.

Begin quoted text:

  • 160D-202.  Municipal extraterritorial jurisdiction.

(a)    Any city MAY exercise the powers granted to cities under this Chapter within a defined area extending not more than one mile beyond its contiguous corporate limitsPursuant to G.S. 160A-58.4, extraterritorial municipal planning and development regulation may be extended only from the primary corporate boundary of a city and not from the boundary of satellite areas of the city.

(d)   Any municipality proposing to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction under this Chapter SHALL notify the owners of all parcels of land proposed for addition to the area of extraterritorial jurisdiction, as shown on the county tax records. The notice SHALL be sent by first-class mail to the last addresses listed for affected property owners in the county tax records. The notice SHALL inform the landowner of the effect of the extension of extraterritorial jurisdiction, of the landowner’s RIGHT to participate in a LEGISLATIVE HEARING PRIOR TO ADOPTION of any ordinance extending the area of extraterritorial jurisdiction, as provided in G.S. 160D-601, and of the RIGHT of all residents of the area TO APPLY to the board of COUNTY COMMISSIONERS to serve as a representative on the planning board and the board of adjustment, as provided in G.S. 160D-303. The notice shall be mailed at least 30 days prior to the date of the hearing

(e)    Any council exercising extraterritorial jurisdiction under this Chapter SHALL adopt an ordinance specifying the areas to be included based upon existing or projected urban development and areas of critical concern to the city, as evidenced by officially adopted plans for its development… Boundaries shall be defined, to the extent feasible, in terms of geographical features identifiable on the ground [and] may follow parcel ownership boundaries

(f)    The county MAY, ON REQUEST of the city council, exercise any or all of these powers in any or all areas lying within the city’s corporate limits or within the city’s specified area of extraterritorial jurisdiction.

  • 160D-307.  Extraterritorial representation on boards.

(a)    When a city elects to exercise extraterritorial powers under this Chapter, it SHALL provide a means of proportional representation based on population for residents of the extraterritorial area to be regulatedRepresentation shall be provided by appointing AT LEAST ONE resident of the entire extraterritorial planning and development regulation area to the planning board [and the] board of adjustment.

(b)    The extraterritorial representatives on a city advisory boardSHALL be appointed by the board of COUNTY commissioners with jurisdiction over the area. The COUNTY SHALL make the appointments within 90 days following the receipt of a request from the city that the appointments be made…If a board of county commissioners fails to make these appointments within 90 days AFTER receiving a resolution from the city council requesting that they be made, the city council MAY make them. 

  • 160D-308.  Rules of procedure.

Rules of procedure that are consistent with the provisions of this Chapter MAY be adopted by the governing board for any or all boards created under this Article. In the absence of action by the governing board, each board created under this Article is AUTHORIZED to adopt its own rules of procedure that are consistent with the provisions of this Chapter. A copy of ANY adopted rules of procedure SHALL be maintained by the local government CLERK or such other official as DESIGNATED BY ORDINANCE and POSTED on the local government Web site if one exists. Each board SHALL keep minutes of its proceedings. 

  • 160D-310.  Appointments to boards.

Unless specified otherwise by statute or local ordinance, all appointments to boards authorized by this Chapter shall be made by the governing board of the local government. The governing board MAY establish reasonable procedures to solicit, review, and make appointments

  • 160D-402.  Administrative staff.

(c)    A local government MAY enter into CONTRACTS WITH another city, COUNTY, or combination thereof under which the parties agree to create a joint staff for the enforcement of State and local laws specified in the agreement.

End quoted text.

ETJ is a lengthy and expensive process that needs to be played out over several months or years. Chapter 160D allows us to partner with our county government to share the costs of code enforcement. In fact, we already do that to an extent; building inspections and animal control are examples of services the county provides through contracts with Ramseur.

If we decide to adopt ETJ, now or in the future, the statutes outlined above contain a process for adding proportional representation from ETJ to our planning board, at the appropriate time, and without rewriting of our administrative ordinances. Ramseur is free to contract with the county for zoning and code enforcement, and I’d wager it could be done for less money than we’d pay a small army of consultants.

It might be wise for Ramseur to study ETJ and perhaps one day adopt some, but we have much bigger issues to face and decisions to make today. As for the ordinance amendment that opened up voting seats on our planning board to non-residents of Ramseur, that horse needs to be put back in the barn, now.

That’s not how any of this works, and in my next post, I’ll explain why, and how it should.

Town manager = continuity & stability

Several years ago my neighbor and I were on his front porch talking with then-Captain Presley of the Ramseur police department. While we were there someone drove past at well over the safe speed for our little residential street. Captain Presley explained to us that if signs were posted on our street he would be able to enforce a speed limit, so my neighbors and I requested signs. Several years later, after Jim McIntosh was elected to the board of commissioners, we finally got them. Unfortunately, higher-priority calls rarely leave time for police officers to linger in residential areas long enough to catch anyone speeding.

There are, of course, other ways we could address the speeding problem that do not require additional law enforcement, but this article isn’t about speeders on Church Street or the admirable job Chief Presley does with the limited manpower we can afford to give him. To enforce ordinances we need to make people aware of them, and the best way to make drivers aware of a law is to post signs.

Back in 2019, then-Commissioner Randy Cox brought the board a proposed ordinance prohibiting truck drivers from using a loud braking method, commonly called Jake braking, inside town limits. The board of commissioners approved that ordinance.

A few months after that we had an election and Ramseur voters chose three new commissioners and a new mayor. The new mayor was then a commissioner with two years left in her term, so by early 2020 four new commissioners had been seated. We also hired a new town clerk/finance officer around the same time.

It’s never been the mayor’s job to keep up with administrative tasks, at least not according to the state legislature, and while a case could be made that it is the clerk’s job, she’s got a very full plate.

As far as I know, that anti-Jake braking ordinance is still on the books, but it seems to have been forgotten. No signs have ever been posted and without signs, it can’t be enforced. The new board members and administrative staff had much bigger issues to deal with when they took office almost three and a half years ago, but the fact remains; our board of commissioners passed an ordinance intended to make life in Ramseur a little more pleasant and the ball got dropped.

Almost every weekday morning between 6:30 and 7 A.M. a big truck rolls up Coleridge Road from south of town. The driver starts Jake braking around Foushee Road and continues all the way to at least Carter or Liberty Street. It’s so consistent – same distance, about the same time, almost every day – that it seems deliberate, and without posted signs, there’s not much police can do about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I live far enough off that road that we barely hear it inside our house, but I’d sure hate it if my home was up there on Coleridge Road, especially if I wasn’t an early riser.

This issue is yet another prime example of why we need a town manager; not an administrator, a manager.

A town manager provides consistency no matter what changes voters may make to the board of commissioners every two years, and a manager’s position is much harder for any board of commissioners to do away with than an administrator’s. All municipalities need that continuity and stability, and that is why most towns across North Carolina, large and small, have adopted the manager/council form of government.

City and county commissioners are elected to make policy decisions for others to carry out. In most places, responsibility for that “carrying out” falls upon a manager’s shoulders, and then filters down to department heads and employees.

Commissioners should never be expected to manage the day-to-day operations of a town; especially not for the $150 per month we pay ours. That’s why we must update our town’s corporate charter and hire a professional manager. The price of failing to do so is simply too high.

The Case For Hiring A Town Administrator

[Editor’s note: Since publishing this essay in 2019 I have learned more about this issue. I have since modified my opinion. We do not need a town administrator: we need a MANAGER. Hiring a town manager requires a change to our municipal corporate charter, from a mayor-council to a council-manager form of government. A manager cannot simply be defunded and our government reverted back to the broken system we have now. Otherwise, the reasons cited below remain valid.]

The question of whether to hire a town administrator, in addition to a clerk, is an important decision for Ramseur today. Most of the candidates who appeared at the forum last weekend stated that they understand the value of hiring an administrator but there was some disagreement over whether and how to go about filling both positions. Most citizens of Ramseur seem to agree that we can no longer afford not to hire a professional town administrator.

Mayor Shaw has stated that he would prefer the board hire one person to fill the roles of town administrator, clerk, zoning administrator, and finance officer (treasurer). That’s pretty much where we were until last July when our former clerk, Bobbie Hatley, resigned. She, Commissioner Cheek, and Mayor Shaw were the de facto administration of the Town of Ramseur, and that arrangement ended badly for several reasons, not the least of which involved tasking one person with far too many responsibilities.

It wouldn’t matter if we paid an administrator a salary of $100,000 or $1,000,000; if you ask more than is humanly possible from a person no amount of money will make the arrangement work. Asking one person to fill too many roles in an operation as complex as a town – even one as small as Ramseur – is a recipe for failure. Our Board of Commissioners should be working to fill two positions: town clerk and town administrator.

In those two individuals, the board should be looking for a combination of experience and education that would allow a clerk and administrator, working as a team, to handle all of the administrative duties listed above and others that may arise in the course of doing the town’s business, including billing and collecting payments for our water and sewer utilities. If additional help turns out to be necessary, that need could be filled by part-time student interns or retirees employed a few hours each week to answer telephones and accept payments at the front desk. It’s not rocket science folks.

The remainder of this article will lay out why I believe this is the solution we should pursue. I will draw from sources at the UNC School of Government (SoG), as well as relevant information from other states.

First, it’s important to define what a town administrator is and how that differs from a town manager in North Carolina.  Frayda Bluestein at UNC SoG defined the terms in a blog post on the subject in 2010.

There are no specific statutes that describe town administrators or delineate their powers. That’s because a town administrator is a position created by the governing board in mayor-council cities. In a mayor-council city, the council has the legal authority to appoint employees and has broad authority to organize the government. (See G.S. 160A-146).  In addition, G.S. 160A-155 specifically authorizes the council in mayor-council cities to delegate to any administrative official or department head its authority to appoint, suspend, and remove employees. Under this authority, the council may create the position and hire an administrator to perform functions similar to or even identical to those that a manager in a council-manager city would perform.

“So what’s the difference between a manager and an administrator? In a council-manager form of government the manager’s powers and duties are set by state law (G.S. 160A-148).  The council has no authority to modify the manager’s powers, except perhaps to add to those listed in the statute. An administrator’s powers, on the other hand, are delegated by the council and can be defined, modified, or even completely eliminated, in the council’s discretion.

“In addition to supervisory authority, councils may delegate to administrators authority for things like approving contracts and other expenditures, and in some cases, cities confer upon the administrator the duties of clerk or finance officer. Basically, the council can delegate to an administrator any of its power or duty as it chooses, as long as no statute requires the power or duty to be exercised by the board itself.”

Contrary to what some candidates and current commissioners have stated in the past, hiring a town administrator takes no authority away from the board. In fact, everything I read on the subject says just the opposite; hiring a qualified administrator gives board members more time to focus on what they were elected to do: study issues and make good policy decisions.

Our local board would most likely not want to authorize an administrator to approve contracts, nor do I believe they should, but they probably would ask an administrator to develop contracts or the research materials needed to solicit bids and select the best options available.

Most of the candidates told us last weekend that they do not have all the answers, and no one should expect them to. We should expect them to hire professionals who in turn will empower the board members with the information needed to make the best decisions possible on every issue they consider.

Hiring two people to fill the necessary administrative roles in our office, regardless of how the duties are divided between them, would help ensure that if one resigned or became incapacitated there would almost always be at least one person in the office familiar with the day to day functions that keep our town running smoothly. The chaos we’ve seen since clerk Hatley’s departure provides all the proof anyone should need to see the value of having both an administrator and a clerk on our payroll.

Departmental supervisors reporting to a single administrator gives board members, as well as every employee or contractor in every department, a stable chain of command that doesn’t change after each election. It also eliminates the ridiculous argument that some commissioners are more important than others and must be available in town during business hours. The practice of individual commissioners being assigned responsibility for separate departments must end with this year’s election.

Continuity and stability are sorely lacking in the way our local government operates today. Under an administrator, departmental supervisors would have one person to report issues to. Often a policy, already in place, could be referenced and the issue resolved on the spot. In cases where no policy exists, an administrator could research the issue and distribute information to board members who would then discuss it and make a decision in a public meeting. That process takes no authority away from elected officials. If anything it empowers them to be better policymakers.

After reading through the materials available online, and in the textbook I purchased from UNC SoG, I was curious about what other states have to say on the subject. Obviously, every state is different, but at a base level all local governments exist for one purpose: to provide citizens with services that are cheaper in bulk; things we all want or need such as police and fire protection, sanitation, water, and sewer treatment or recreational opportunities

A case study from the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) made a very good case for employing qualified town administrators. According to MTAS, in municipalities without professional administrators governing boards often do not receive the full and accurate information needed for making informed decisions.

Cities without professional administration also frequently lose considerable funds every year to neighboring local governments. “In one city, $350,000 was being lost annually, and the city could only recover lost revenue for the most recent 12 months.” Over several years that amounts to losses in the millions of dollars.

A qualified town administrator will almost always save a municipality money in the long term. One administrator in Tennessee recovered $332,000 in local sales taxes that were wrongfully distributed to other jurisdictions. This added that much to city coffers every year going forward. Sounds like that administrator more than paid for themselves.

According to MTAS professional administrators give governing boards better control because accountability is more centralized. That affords board members more equal involvement and provides citizens with a central point of contact in resolving complaints.

A city attorney’s role and the cost is also minimized with a competent town administrator. Small towns that say they can’t afford an administrator often pay an attorney well over one hundred dollars per hour to address administrative issues that could easily be handled by a professional administrator paid considerably less.

Finally, city administrators provide for more effective use of state and federal grants in providing and paying for city services. A full-time administrator who has the time and latitude to interact with other agencies is more likely to be knowledgeable about the availability of federal and state grants.

I encourage everyone, especially current and aspiring board members, to read the full study, found here, and another document, from the Illinois City/County Management Association, that makes an excellent case for professional town administration as well. This seems like a no-brainer.

When we hire our next administrator I hope the board will have the wisdom to hire someone from outside the community; someone without pre-existing alliances or entanglements. Perhaps more important, the board must give that person the latitude to do the work, and not be an obstacle in the path of progress.

I didn’t live here the first time Ramseur tried having an administrator, but I’ve talked with several people who did, and one common thread has emerged from those discussions: our first administrator’s hands were tied by a board unwilling to let him do his job.

Ramseur needs both a full-time clerk and a qualified administrator to lead our local government, and a board smart enough to get out of the way and let those people do their jobs. Having a competent professional staff handling the day-to-day operations of our town will provide a level of stability that our current system of schoolyard popularity contests and musical chairs, with players changing every other year, simply cannot.

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