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Council asked for city manager resignation

While Stan Farmer’s recent departure as city manager here officially will go down as a resignation, it actually was triggered by a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners vote to dismiss Farmer, according to new information disclosed.

“The board wanted to go in a different direction,” Mayor Jon Cawley explained during an interview in his office at the Municipal Building late last week.

It also has been learned that Farmer will continue to receive a salary under a severance package accompanying his July 21 departure after about 18 months on the job.

The former city manager was being paid $135,000 annually after replacing Barbara Jones, who had retired in 2021 after 12 years leading the daily operations of the municipal government.

“It’s a six-month severance,” said the mayor, who added that this will involve Farmer being paid half of that $135,000 sum “unless he takes another job in the state of North Carolina.”

No specific reasons have emerged publicly regarding the difference in “direction” surrounding Farmer being at odds with the city council, but his dismissal came without cause. This indicates there were no major issues with his performance, which also reinforces the ability to effectively continue being paid a salary under the severance provision.

Farmer’s reported resignation came on the heels of a surprise closed session held at the end of a July 20 meeting of the commissioners, which the mayor announced then would be for a personnel matter. Farmer was seen leaving the Municipal Building soon after the secret meeting began, and announced his resignation the next morning.

Minutes from the July 20 meeting — specifically for a period in which the council returned to open session — were approved by the commissioners during their last meeting Thursday night.

Those minutes, the official record of the proceedings, reveal that after reconvening into the open session, the board voted unanimously to adopt personnel recommendations approved during the closed session.

“After further discussion, in unanimous action, the board determined to informally offer that the city manager resign without cause,” the minutes continue. “This information was conveyed.”

“That basically turned into a resignation effective immediately,” Cawley advised.

“We thought it was best to spend the severance package and remove him from this position,” the mayor said of Farmer.

Farmer had come here from Horseshoe Bay, Texas, where he served as city manager for the previous 13.5 years, and before that held the same job in two North Carolina municipalities, Selma and Lucama.

The former Marine was chosen for the post in Mount Airy from among 21 applicants, and along with his previous experience possessed academic credentials including a master’s degree in public administration from Appalachian State University.

Farmer, who began work here in January 2022, has not responded to a voice-mail message seeking his comment regarding the July 21 departure from Mount Airy city government.

Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis was named interim manager in conjunction with that move.



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