Former Front Royal city manager Steven W. Hicks, who was recently offered a job as city administrator of Louisburg, North Carolina, apparently had the offer rescinded before its Nov. 7 start date .
In an about-face, Louisburg’s chief financial officer for more than 14 years, Sean Medlin, was offered the job, which he accepted.
Louisbourg City Council had apparently been searching for a new director for several months before narrowing the field to four candidates, according to a source familiar with Louisbourg’s search process. Hicks and Medlin were among the final four candidates.
Hicks was apparently selected by the Louisburg City Council during a six-hour executive session on Monday, Oct. 31. When the council returned to a public meeting that evening, Hicks was announced as the new town administrator, although no formal vote was taken.
As no votes were recorded at the Monday meeting, the council held a special meeting on Friday afternoon, November 4th. By the end of the meeting, the panel had decided to withdraw Hicks’ offer and instead extend an offer to Sean Medlin, who served more than 14 years as Louisburg’s chief financial officer.
A source close to the events of the special meeting said it started with Mayor Christopher Neal asking council to honor the consensus he reached at Monday’s closed meeting, noting that all had agreed. agreed on the selection of Hicks at the time.
However, Friday’s roll call vote shows only Mayor Neal and council members Emma Stewart and Bobby Dickerson voted “yes” for Hicks. Council members Tom Clancy, Mark Russell and Silke Stein voted ‘no’, resulting in a 3-3 tie. Council member Betty Wright was absent.
At that time, according to a source present at the meeting, Mayor Neal acknowledged a Nov. 3 edition of the local newspaper, The Franklin Times, which detailed unflattering information regarding Hicks’ tenure as City Manager of Selma. , in North Carolina and also regarding his time as administrator of Front Royal.
Mayor Neal said the city had done “extensive” research on Hicks and told the panel he thought Hicks was a solid choice who had “excellent qualifications.”
At the time, Councilman Russell pointed out that Hicks had been either fired or asked to quit his last two jobs – and said the council’s second choice “was a proven city employee”. He then offered to offer the position to Medlin. The council then voted 4-2 to offer the job to Medlin – who quickly accepted when the mayor called him after the meeting.
This Franklin Times article cited newspaper reports from Selma and Front Royal, Va., as well as interviews, as the source of its information on Hicks.
The newspaper detailed Hicks’ short tenure as NC City Manager Selma and his resignation under pressure from several council members. He cited Selma, North Carolina Mayor Byron McCallister’s September 2020 statement to the press, which said, in part, “I began to hear from citizens and city staff (who) were concerned about the performance of our city manager. The truth is, most board members at the time felt that Hicks wasn’t leading Selma in the right direction.
McAllister said at the time that he and another board member asked Hicks to resign, in part because “Hicks pushed a budget that cut our police department and cut maintenance funds for police responders. ’emergency”.
The article reported that McAllister called Hicks a “quiet leader” and claimed that “locals were complaining that they didn’t see our general manager in town.”
‘I have visited City Hall regularly to find that Mr. Hicks often did not show up to the office until 10 a.m.,’ McAllister said. “I don’t think Hicks was the right fit for Selma.”
On December 7, 2020, Hicks was hired as City Manager of Front Royal and was praised by city officials.
The Franklin Times detailed Front Royal Vice Mayor Bill Sealock’s statement that council was aware of Hicks’ problems at Selma and felt that Hicks’ departure as Selma Town Manager “was a political issue” largely revolving around “personality,” to which the deputy mayor added of Hicks’ potential management style, “He’s pretty pushy.”
The Front Royal press release at the time of Hicks’ hiring said he had been chosen after a year-long search involving 80 candidates.
Sealock said: “Finding the right candidate took longer than expected. Council knew what it wanted in a manager and was patient in finding the right municipal manager for our community. I believe that our efforts have paid off in having the best possible candidate. I am excited to see what Steven will bring to our municipal government, our businesses and our community.
Announcing Hick’s appointment, Mayor-Elect Chris Holloway said, “Hicks was selected for his impressive leadership in operations, bringing business to communities, building fiscally conservative budgets, managing corporate departments and delivering complex infrastructure projects on time and within budget. .”
However, less than two years into his job, Hicks was fired in August 2022, following a 90-minute executive session on Hicks’ performance and acting city councilman James Cornwell Jr., Mayor Chris Holloway playing the tiebreaker. vote, by a 4-3 margin terminated Hicks’ contract. Cornwell’s contract was also terminated.
The Franklin Times reported that Hick’s troubles at Front Royal began when Front Royal City Attorney Douglas Napier conducted an investigation into whether Hicks had expedited a subdivision request by Mayor Christopher Holloway.
The newspaper quoted Napier’s report, “In this case, it is clear from all staff reports that the City Manager in fact personally ‘carried the ball’ for Holloway’s candidacy by the City Manager himself in ensuring that the Planning and Public Works Departments and their staff knew that the City Manager was overseeing the subdivision application for Holloway and the City Manager wanted this application expedited as quickly as possible.
The city attorney said the acting city director felt there was at least an implicit pressure to sign (the mayor’s) plan of subdivision as soon as it was presented to him.
“He was presented to him by his boss, the general manager, in the presence of the mayor, the acting director of urban planning did not feel he had the time, nor took the time, to review the city code to be certain of the proper city code procedures were being followed,” Napier wrote in his report.
Hicks reportedly earned a salary of $130,000 a year plus medical, dental, vision, life insurance, a 5% contribution to a 401(K) supplemental retirement plan, and enrollment in the local government employee retirement system. He was also approved for relocation expenses up to $2,500.
Royal Examiner contacted Louisbourg Mayor Christopher Neal regarding the city’s abrupt decision to back down on his job offer at Hicks, but the official did not return our call.
Regarding his selection as the City of Louisburg Trustee, Medlin said, “It is an honor to be the next City of Louisburg Trustee. I look forward to working with the Mayor, City Council, staff and citizens to deliver projects as we move the City of Louisburg forward. »