Orange County Manager Bonnie Hammersley is among three finalists for Wake County manager.
Hammersley, interim Wake County Manager David Ellis and Lake County, Illinois, County Administrator Barry Burton were chosen from a field of 25 people.
They will meet the public during an informal meet-and-greet at 5:30 p.m.Thursday at the Wake County Justice Center in downtown Raleigh.
The Wake County county manager is tasked with drafting the county’s $1.26 billion budget, overseeing county departments, making recommendations to county commissioners and representing the county during community events.
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Hammersley, 58, said she’s looking forward to answering people’s questions.
“This is more common in other areas,” she said. “It’s a good thing to include the community because this position will be responsible for reaching out to the community to gain their perspective and be more effective. This community input is important to inform the board of commissioners as they face the challenges and opportunity that face the community.”
Hammersley has been Orange County’s manager since 2014 and is a 30-year county government veteran, previously serving as the first female county administrator in Muskegon County, Michigan. She has a business administration degree from Edgewood College in Wisconsin.
Among her accomplishments, Hammersley noted the county’s affordable housing strategic plan, draft rapid response and relocation housing policy for mobile home parks, and negotiated cost-sharing agreement with Durham County for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit plan.
“The obvious (challenge in Wake) is growth and sustainability and working closely with the school district to build strong and positive relationships,” Hammersley said.
Orange County Commissioners Chairman Mark Dorosin also noted positive cultural changes that Hammersley, who earns $190,232, has brought to Orange County.
She has “been an amazing manager and incredibly effective,” he said.
Any search for a new manager can be challenging and time-intensive, but Hammersley has created an administrative team that should help ease any transition, Dorosin said. Her departure would come as the county faces tough budget choices, including deep cuts and a possible 5-cent property tax-rate increase to pay for a $120 million school construction bond.
“We would hate to lose her in Orange County but understand that she’s going to pursue the professional path that’s seems most right for her, and certainly, Wake County is an incredible opportunity,” Dorosin said.
Burton, 53, said his administration in Illinois has dealt with a rapidly growing county, streamlined economic development and workforce training efforts and worked with the county’s more than 50 cities and towns to address common issues.
Lake County, which encompasses suburbs of Chicago, is smaller than Wake, with a population of 750,000. Wake County is home to more than 1 million people.
“I think I have a strong background on bringing people together around a common issue,” Burton said. “On the growth issue, we have to make sure we look at an economy where everyone benefits, but there are tricks of doing that. And it’s really bringing people together and having a common vision.”
Burton earned a master’s degree in public administration from Northern Kentucky University and a bachelor’s degree in urban administration from the University of Cincinnati. He currently earns a salary of $247,090.
Burton has family living in North Carolina. He said after 16 years at his current job, he felt it was time for a change.
“I’d be able to assist them (Wake) to move the county forward and at the same time, to do something different and learn how they do business,” he said.
Before he came to work in Wake, Ellis served as the assistant city manager in Charlottesville, Va. He previously worked nine years as assistant to the county executive in Fairfax County, Va., where he managed the Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Department of Code Compliance.
Ellis has more than 20 years of local government experience, according to his candidate biography.
When Ellis was hired as deputy manager in 2015, he said, “Wake County is a fantastic community and this is a fantastic opportunity.”
He holds a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University. Last year, he completed the Harvard Kennedy School Senior Executives in State and Local Government program.
Ellis earns an annual salary of $197,798 in his current job.