Apalachicola city commissioners have chosen a retired North Carolina town manager to assume the role of being its first city manager in over 50 years.
By a 4-1 vote, with Mitchell Bartley opposed, commissioners on Tuesday night hired Ron Nalley, 49, a former town manager of Lake Lure, North Carolina. Bartley also was the lone nay vote when commissioner in May created the city manager position, the first such post since Newt Creekmore served as Apalachicola’s city manager from 1946 to 1957.
True to their proposed timeline, and with the help of a screening committee led by former City Engineer Bill McCartney and Commissioner Anita Grove, city commissioners were able to fill the post at their August meeting, ahead of their first workshop, Aug. 22, for the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.
Nalley, soon to be fully retired after 25 years within North Carolina’s local government retirement system, has lived with his parents, Tom and Sandy Nalley, in the Plantation on St. George Island, for the past six weeks.
He emerged as one of six finalists recommended by the hiring committee, which also included Jack Brewer, Jim Brown, Tom Morgan, Alan Pierce and Valentina Webb.
Five of the six finalists were interviewed last week by city commissioners, after each of the candidates was partnered with a city official for an introductory tour of the city.
The commissioners winnowed the five down to three, which included William Laurence, currently the town manager in from Union, Maine, and Terry Henley, from Surfside, a former acting budget director of North Miami. Henley attended Tuesday’s commission meeting, as did Nalley.
In her introduction, Grove said she checked Nalley’s references, and they all were positive, while McCartney negotiated a salary package.
Nalley will be paid $65,000 plus standard benefits extended city employees. His employment began Wednesday, when he and City Administrator Lee Mathes were expected to meet with Mayor Van Johnson.
Nalley’s salary comes in at the low end of a range Johnson proposed in May, from $65,000 to $85,000 annually. About $11,000 will come out of the current fiscal year budget, to fund Nalley’s work through the end of the current budget year Sept. 30.
At the commission meeting, City Attorney Pat Floyd said he plans to draft a contract agreement which will spell out the terms of Nalley’s employment.
Prior to her vote in support of the Nalley’s hiring. Commissioner Brenda Ash reminded colleagues that when the position was created in May, she amended the motion so as to place the new hire on probation for their first year, and require that he or she attract additional monies to city coffers at or above the cost of their own compensation package, or risk termination.
Floyd said that it would not be necessary in the motion to approve Nalley’s hiring for only one year. since he will serve as an at-will employee, with commissioners retaining the right to terminate him at their discretion.
Nalley grew up in the Montreat-Black Mountain area of North Carolina, not far from Asheville, the son of a physician assistant.
He earned a bachelor of science in political science, with a concentration in town and county management, from Appalachian State University in 1992.
While still in high school, he had worked after school and during the summer in the water, sewer and street department of Montreat, and after college graduation, worked with the town as an administrative intern. Incidentally, Montreat is the hometown of the late famed evangelist Billy Graham.
In Sept. 1992, Nalley went to work as assistant to the McDowell County manager in Marion, North Carolina. After three years there, he moved on to the town administrator post in Woodfin, N.C., where he remained for nearly seven years.
From 2001 through 2004, he was assistant town manager in Black Mountain, N.C., and in 2005, he began an 11-year stint as the town administrator of Montreat, where his career had begun.
In August 2016, he was hired as town manager of Lake Lure, N.C., and this past June, on the verge of his full retirement, he decided to move to St. George Island to be closer to his parents.
A divorced father of two, his daughter a college student in Georgia and his son a high school junior in Black Mountain, N.C., Nalley said his family has become familiar with Franklin County over the years.
“We’ve been vacationing here since the ‘80s, they love it here,” he said. “My son will spend a lot of time down here.”
Familiarizing himself quickly with the dynamics of Florida’s state and local government will be his biggest challenge, Nalley said.
“With second homes, retirees, vacationers, it’s very similar in nature” to where he worked in North Carolina, Nalley said.
“I look forward to working with the community, the city commission and the staff on the opportunities and challenges of Apalachicola. The folks I met were all good hardworking people. I was impressed and I look forward to meeting all of them.
“I’ll do a lot of listening, and a lot of reading,” he said. “I look forward to getting started.”
Nalley jumped right in Wednesday, with a 9 a.m. meeting with Mathes and the mayor.
“My goal is to have a smooth transition and then go over some issues, especially with the state revolving loan,” Johnson said after Tuesday’s meeting. “That’s going to be my primary mission tomorrow.”