Montré Freeman’s tenure as city manager isn’t scheduled to start until next week, but Elizabeth City’s new top executive is already anxious to begin work.
Freeman was sworn in as Elizabeth City’s new city manager during City Council’s meeting Monday night.
Performing the honors was his wife, state District Court Judge Teresa Freeman, who administered the oath of office to her husband as their two children, Kingston, 3, and Maléah, 9, held a Bible. Teresa Freeman has been the district court judge in District 6, which includes Bertie, Halifax, Hertford and Northampton counties, since 2008, and just won re-election to a new term in November after running unopposed.
Freeman, formerly town manager of Enfield, in Halifax County, said he was proud to receive the oath of office from his wife.
“I can’t even put into words how proud I am of my wife and how proud I was to have her swear me in,” Freeman said Tuesday. “The feeling is still reverberating through me. I am still on cloud 1,000.’’
Freeman, the first ever African American hired as Elizabeth City’s city manager, will be paid $140,000 annually and has a two-year contract with the city.
Days after signing his contract in November, Freeman found a home in Elizabeth City and began the transition to his new position, saying he wanted to get his “boots on the ground.”
He said he and his family have spent the last several weeks exploring the city and he brought his last load of belongings to the couple’s home here on Sunday. Freeman said his wife and their children will spend the week at their home in Roanoke Rapids and the weekends in Elizabeth City.
“I have been helping my children with the adjustment,” Freeman said. “They are doing very well and they understand what is happening and why it is happening. They are looking forward to spending weekends here in Elizabeth City. We have assured them that we will always be as close as we have been and that this is a great opportunity.”
One spot Freeman has shown his children is the Elizabeth City State University campus, from which he graduated in 1996 with a degree in criminal justice. Freeman’s parents, William and Rosa, and twin brother, Monte, are also ECSU graduates and he said the family’s love for the city runs deep.
“We have taken them to visit some of the places that I went to here when I was back in college in the 1990s,” said Freeman, who played football and ran track for the Vikings. “I’ve showed them some of the new things, so it’s been a really good family experience and that has been our focus at this point.”
Freeman, who left Enfield on Dec. 31, took part in the recent hiring of new Public Utilities Director Dwan Bell in November.
Bell, who is also an ECSU graduate, brings 19 years of experience, including 17 in Elizabeth City’s Public Utilities Department and recent stints as public works director in the eastern North Carolina towns of Selma and Hertford, to the city.
“I really enjoyed the process that took place and it was very professional and very detailed,” Freeman said. “(Bell) is extremely knowledgeable and his knowledge was superior in those interviews.”
Freeman said he plans to meet with all city directors, city councilors and the mayor after he officially starts work on Tuesday.
“I am looking forward to meeting the entire organization,” Freeman said. “I will spend a great deal of my time, initially, just observing the organization and getting to know people.”
Freeman described his management style as “managing from the ground up.”
“I want them to know that I am here to serve them,” Freeman said. “Because I am the highest-ranking official, I have the abilities to remove stumbling blocks or challenges for people so they can go and do their best work for the city.”
To get to know councilors and the mayor better, Freeman said he is going to schedule socially-distanced “tea time with the manager” to discuss issues facing the city.
“I set a time with each council member and they can bring their tea or coffee,” Freeman said. “It will just be the two of us in the room and I will record what their initiatives are and what they want to see happen in the city.”