Luray seeks public input in town manager position

Page News and Courier

LURAY, Aug. 14 ― The town council is seeking community input as its search for a town manager continues.

During its meeting last Monday, the Luray Town Council approved a special town hall meeting next month “to solicit input from the community on what skills and traits are important for the next town manager to possess.”

The council additionally elected to see assistant town manager Bryan Chrisman continue in the role of acting town manager.

Last month, Luray said goodbye to four-year town manager Charlie Hoke, who officially retired on July 31. Chrisman was then tapped to fill in as acting town manager.

The town in June began advertising an interim manager position with an annual salary starting at $60,000 and up to $85,000, depending on a candidate's qualifications and education. The Luray Council then met on July 18 during an executive session to review responses that had been submitted by the July 15 deadline.

According to Chrisman, the town received 18 responses to the ad, including a response from a consulting firm.

“At this time, the council is not considering hiring a consulting firm,” said Chrisman.

The Page News in its Aug. 3 issue reported the council's consideration of the Bridgewater-based consulting firm Berkley Group.

Luray Mayor Barry Presgraves said at the time that while the council had “no specific costs right now,” if they chose to approve services from a firm, final costs could reach $100,000.

“It could exceed it, or it could be less ...” Presgraves said in July, adding that an Aug. 8 meeting with the Berkley Group was scheduled during an Aug. 8 executive session at the town office.

When asked if the council met during an executive session on Aug. 8 ― or at any other time ― with representatives from the Berkley Group or any other firm, Chrisman said the council held a special meeting on Aug. 8.

“But the discussions related to an interim town manager were held in closed session,” the acting town manager said. “No action was taken after reconvening in open session.”

According to a news release issued by the town last Wednesday, “the council never considered spending $100,000 to hire a consulting group to recruit an interim town manager.”

In response, at least in part, to the Courier's coverage, the Luray Council at its Aug. 14 meeting approved the appointment of a “communications contact.”

“This was in response to a previous article, and the council wished to make certain things clear regarding their intentions,” said Chrisman. “This role has not officially existed in the past. I believe the reasoning was to provide a consistent message from the council to the community.”

Chrisman continued, noting that the position is aimed at disseminating communications by the town.

“... I believe that individual council members will still answer questions,” Chrisman said. “Decisions made as a council would be disseminated through the [communications contact].”

Chrisman was additionally appointed last Monday as the town's Freedom of Information Act Officer.

Presgraves declined to comment further when asked about consulting firms, cost projections or the response of the Luray Town Council through its new communications contact.

“I'm not going to comment anymore,” said Presgraves.

When asked why, Presgraves said, “Because it's just a circle that goes around and around. There's no winners, no losers.”

Town residents will get the chance to weigh-in on the town manager position during a town hall meeting slated for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11, in the council chambers at the town office on Main Street.

“The council, through its existing staff, will advertise and recruit for a full-time town manager position once it receives input from the community,” Chrisman said. “At this time, the council is not contemplating hiring an interim town manager. After evaluating all of their options, they elected to continue with an acting town manager while they recruit for a full-time [town manager].”

Chrisman declined to answer whether he would seek the position full-time.

“I have advised council of my current thoughts in that regard,” he said. “I do not think my interest or disinterest should be a factor in the recruitment process.”

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