Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones will leave his post in Virginia in August to become Chapel Hill's next town manager.
"I feel honored, and I feel fortunate" to accept the job, Jones said Tuesday night.
Charlottesville has been "a special place" for him and his family, Jones said, but he is looking forward to learning about Chapel Hill.
"I couldn't think of another great place I'd want to work [that's also] a college town other than Chapel Hill," Jones said. "I really feel as though I've caught lightning in a bottle a couple of times in my career, and I'm really looking forward to being here and the challenges that we have."
Mayor Pam Hemminger announced the decision at a special Town Council meeting, ending a months-long community conversation about the kind of town manager residents wanted.
Jones will start Aug. 20, initially working alongside longtime Town Manager Roger Stancil, who is retiring. Stancil has been the town manager since 2006, when he retired after 10 years as Fayetteville's city manager after disagreements with that city council.
Stancil now earns $204,878 a year.
Jones will earn $210,000 and manage a 700-employee staff and an annual budget of about $110 million. In Charlottesville, Jones' salary last year was roughly $191,000.
He will find familiar challenges in Chapel Hill, including affordable housing, poverty and workforce development. There's a lot of wealth in Charlottesville, Jones said, but also "a lot of folks who have been struggling for a long time."
During his tenure, the city established the Growing Opportunities program, which offered training to residents leading to jobs as bus drivers, electricians and in other skilled trades. At least 120 people have been employed through the program since 2015, he said.
Charlottesville also started an affordable housing fund shortly before he became city manager, similar to Chapel Hill's affordable housing fund. Charlottesville now has $3.4 million in the fund, Jones said, and is working with a number of partners, from Habitat for Humanity to the nonprofit AHIP, which repairs and preserves the area's affordable housing stock.
Another city program is Crossings, a transitional program providing housing and services to 30 homeless and 30 low-income residents.
"We know that it's a significant investment, but it only goes so far. We've got to have partners to make that happen, too, and we, thankfully, in Charlottesville do," Jones said.
The Dale City, Va., native served 17 years in Charlottesville, as communications director, assistant manager and then city manager in 2010. He also worked for three years at the University of Virginia and previously as a broadcast journalist.
In June, the Charlottesville City Council voted not to renew his contract. He could have remained city manager until December.
Jones declined to talk about the council's decision, but Virginia news reports indicated criticism of how Jones and the city's police chief handled the Unite the Right rally by white supremacists in August 2017 caused the rift.
One counter-demonstrator was killed and two Virginia State Police officers died in a helicopter crash during the rally.
Jones said he hired a former U.S. district attorney after the rally to review the city's response. The council got a report in December that addressed the shortcomings and needed improvements, and police have received additional training, Jones said. He noted a plan is now in place to handle future rallies.
The city also worked with the Georgetown Law Center to sue a number of groups that attended the rally, Jones said. They have reached several settlements, and some groups will not be returning to the city, he said.
"It was something that a lot of people [nationwide] weren't necessarily prepared for — not on that level — and so we had a lot of conversations with folks about what are some of the things you're doing to try to address this and better prepare next time and what are some of the things you did well," he said. "I learned a lot through that process, our community learned a lot through that process, and I think, as I said last year, we came out stronger."
When asked for his thoughts about Chapel Hill, Jones said there were many things he wants to learn more about. The Town Council and staff have done a good job taking on the challenges, he said, and he's also glad to hear the community is very engaged.
"Community engagement I think is very important in places liked Charlottesville and like Chapel Hill," he said. "Honestly, that's one of the reasons I was attracted to Chapel Hill. I think it's really important to have a commitment to community engagement, to getting people involved with their community, and getting their voices heard as part of that process."