No new city manager, no problem seems to be the situation right now in Mount Airy — exactly two months since the departure of the last person to hold that position.
Such a development usually triggers a widespread search for a replacement, which was the case after City Manager Barbara Jones retired in October 2021. This led to the hiring about three months later of Stan Farmer, who was selected from among 21 applicants seeking the job from all around the country.
Farmer abruptly resigned on July 21 of this year, after the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to dismiss him and asked for that resignation, according to previous reports.
Mayor Jon Cawley has explained that the council “wanted to go in a different direction,” with no specific issues concerning Farmer’s performance made public.
In the meantime, there are no plans by city officials for the usual search for a replacement, with Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis tapped to fill in as manager on an interim basis when Farmer left.
That stance apparently is due to both financial and continuity reasons, based on recent comments by the mayor.
Farmer is continuing to receive a salary under a severance package accompanying his July 21 departure after about 18 months on the job. It involves him being paid on a six-month basis amounting to half of his $135,000 annual salary, provided that Farmer does not take another job in North Carolina.
That timetable is a key for any replacement plans, according to Cawley.
“I do not expect the board to take any action to begin a search until we have paid off the severance package,” the mayor said earlier this month.
The other part of the equation involves the fact that day-to-day operations of city government are moving at an even keel with Lewis at the helm.
“For my purposes, I think the present situation is pretty good,” the mayor said.
Lewis previously was interim city manager after Jones retired in 2021, serving in that capacity for more than three months until Farmer came to work in January 2022.
The next month, Lewis — who had been parks and recreation director since April 2018 — was appointed as assistant city manager.
Lewis had been a fixture in the Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Department since 2005 as its assistant director and later director.