Elizabeth City City Council reached back more than 25 years into the city’s past Monday to find an interim city manager, naming former city manager Ralph Clark for the role.
Council voted 4-3 Monday night to name Clark, who served as city manager from 1991 to 1995, as interim manager following a lengthy closed session. Clark starts work on Monday.
Councilors Billy Caudle, Jeannie Young, Michael Brooks and Chris Ruffieux all voted to hire Clark. Councilors Darius Horton, Johnnie Walton and Kem Spence voted against the move.
Only seven councilors voted because of Second Ward Councilman Gabriel Adkins’ resignation from council on Oct. 4.
Clark will replace Public Safety Director Eddie Buffaloe, who was named acting city manager on Aug. 23 after City Council put former manager Montre Freeman on paid leave. City Council terminated Freeman without cause on Sept. 30.
Buffaloe has since been nominated by Gov. Roy Cooper to serve as the new secretary of the N.C. Department of Public Safety. Buffaloe’s last day with the city is Oct. 31.
Clark will be paid $75 an hour, will receive lodging in a city bed and breakfast and be given $18 per day to spend on dinner.
City Attorney William Morgan said Buffaloe is going to send out a request for proposals to bed and breakfasts in the city to “get the best available price.”
“We are responsible for his overnight lodging in a bed and breakfast while he is here,” Morgan said.
Mayor Bettie Parker said she reached out to the N.C. League of Municipalities and Clark was one of the people the organization recommended as an interim city manager.
Parker said city officials haven’t developed a plan yet for moving forward on hiring a new city manager.
“None of the council members have indicated a path in which they want to take,” Parker said. “It doesn’t appear that it is even on their minds. Maybe they are waiting for the interim manager (Clark) to come on board. I don’t know.”
Regardless of the timeline, Parker believes that a search for a new manager won’t cost the city nearly as much as it did to find a successor for former City Manager Rich Olson, who left in August 2020. The city paid Chapel Hill-based Developmental Associates $18,000 to lead the search that led to Freeman’s hiring.
“I do know that the contract with the firm who did the manager search for us after Rich Olson left indicates basically that if the manager the City Council hires leaves before a year is up they will do another search free of charge,” Parker said. “We only would have to pay for expenses. Therefore, I hope that the council members will utilize this avenue expeditiously in seeking a new city manager.”
Clark couldn’t be reached Tuesday.
James Harrington, who was city mayor for part of Clark’s tenure as city manager in the early 1990s, described him Tuesday as a great city manager and as someone who will be able to “get a handle on things” in the city.
“I really enjoyed working with him,” said Harrington, pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church in Moyock. “The thing I really remember about Ralph is his calm demeanor. Things didn’t rattle him and he had a calm way of dealing with things. He thought through things.”