Welcoming new county manager

Feb. 15, 2014 @ 03:50 PM

Wendell Davis brings a strong resume and a deep background in this community to his job as Durham County’s new county manager.

The Board of Commissioners selected Davis Monday night, days after Michael Ruffin stepped town from the job – and six months after Ruffin announced in July that he planned to retire.

Since May 2011, Davis has served as vice chancellor for administration and finance at North Carolina Central University -- the university from which he received his undergraduate degrees in geography and sociology. 

For more than a decade before taking one of the top three administrative posts at NCCU, Davis served as Durham’s deputy county manager.

Before that, he was deputy county manager in Bertie County, Va. for four years, held several positions with Prince William County, Va., and worked in city government posts in Arlington, VA., Baltimore, Md., and Champaign, Ill.

After NCCU, he earned masters in urban planning at the University of Illinois, Champaign - Urbana, Illinois, and a master of business administration in management from Southeastern University, Washington, D.C.

Davis, a familiar figure here from his many years in Durham County government and his key role at NCCU, is widely respected. NCCU officials, the county noted in a release, lauded his “exceptional analytical skills” and “interpersonal communications which enabled him to establish a collaborative and congenial working relationship” with fellow administrators.

“He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to county government,” commissioners’ Chairman Michael Page rightly said Monday night as the commissioners voted on his appointment. “With how we’re planning to move forward with our strategic plan and other initiatives of county government, we felt he is the most capable candidate to lead us in that direction.”

We concur with all of that, and welcome Davis back to county government.

But we can’t avoid a nagging wish the county had conducted a more widespread and aggressive search than it apparently did. Unlike some other urban counties, including nearby Wake, the county did not retain a national search firm.

Had it done so, it might well have had more – and more varied – applicants from which to choose. A more aggressive search might have turned up strong potential candidates who would have needed a nudge to apply.

We certainly don’t want to suggest that any government – or other institution – ought to overlook outstanding talent nurtured within the organization.  Experience and familiarity with operations are important. Promoting from within or with an intermediate stop to broaden one’s credential even further as in Davis’ case, sends a message of opportunity to talented and ambitious employees.

Davis in all probability would still have emerged as the top candidate, but it might further have burnished the appointment.

Nonetheless, as we said to begin this editorial, his credentials are strong and we look forward to his leadership of the county for years to come.