WNC governments play musical chairs with administration 

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Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Earlier this year, the town of Highlands began searching for a new town manager when Bob Frye announced his retirement after nearly five years in the position. Highlands’ search for a new manager came to a halt after hiring Bryson City’s sitting manager, Josh Ward. With that vacancy, Bryson City came to Franklin to recruit Franklin’s Human Resource Officer Chad Simons. With Simons heading to Bryson, Franklin looked within their current employee pool and hired Travis Tallent, the current Wastewater Treatment Plant Director.

Ward is actually returning to Highlands, where he previously worked for eight years in the planning and zoning department. During his last two years working in Highlands, before heading to Bryson City in 2015, Ward served as the town’s planning director.

Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor said Highlands reviewed 25 applications for the town manager job and conducted interviews with nine candidates. Those interviews were conducted via Skype and were then narrowed down to four candidates. Those four candidates travelled to Highlands for in-person interviews before Ward was offered the position.

“After two extensive meetings assessing the finalist’s qualifications,  the entire board decided Josh Ward would be the best fit to lead the town as town manager,” said Taylor. “He has 15 years of experience in town and county government. He recently had a successful tenure as the town manager of Bryson City. Before going to Bryson City, he was a very effective planning administrator for the Town of Highlands for a number of years. Ward is uniquely qualified to work with the town board, staff and the community in his new role as town manager. He knows Highlands and Macon County and will be instrumental in building strong cooperative relationships in the community and region.”

Bryson City had just hired Ward last year, so when they found themselves needing a new manager, the process and what they were looking for was still fresh in their minds. Simons, who has served as the Human Resource Officer and town clerk for Franklin was in their sights last year and was immediately contacted about the vacancy. The town of Bryson City asked Simons to apply for the job, and after one interview, offered him the position.

“I first met Chad when he was a reporter for the Smoky Mountain Times here in Bryson City,” said Bryson City Mayor Tom Sutton. “His level of professionalism and commitment to his job was very impressive to me and the members of the board of aldermen. I kept up with his career when he moved on to Franklin and he was the first person to come to mind when Mr. Ward announced that he was leaving. Chad has the right education and training and, most importantly, hands on experience in municipal government. I believe he will bring energy and focus to the job and keep us moving in a positive direction.”

Simons heads to Bryson City as a 2005 graduate of Franklin High School and Bachelors Degree in history and political science from Western Carolina University which he obtained in 2009 when he graduated cum laude. Simons has a masters degree in public administration from Appalachian State which he obtained in 2011 and serves as a medic in the 210th regiment of the North Carolina National Guard.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to work for the town of Bryson City, and I look forward to continue to build upon what Josh, their board and employees have accomplished in the last year or so,” said Simons.

Simons noted that his year working with the town of Franklin has prepared him to take the reins in Bryson City.

“I’ve learned a lot during my time at Franklin, from budgeting, personnel management, land-use planning, utility administration, and a myriad of other things concerning local government matters,” said Simons. “We accomplished a lot during my time here, but I know we have much still to do, but I’m proud of the progress we’ve made. Every town is different, but I’ve certainly learned a lot here and I believe the experience and knowledge gained at Franklin will help me transition to a new role with Bryson City.”

With Simons heading to Bryson City at the end of the month, Franklin looked within for a new HR officer/town clerk and found that in Travis Tallent.

“Mr. Tallent has been employed with the town of Franklin since 2014 as a waste water treatment plant operator,” said Woodard. “Mr. Tallent will serve as the town clerk and human resource officer. Given his educational background and his work experience with the town of Franklin he will be well suited for this position.”

Tallent has his Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a minor in Political Science from Western Carolina University. He also holds a Masters in Public Administration from Western Carolina University.

According to Woodard, the town of Franklin will now advertise for the vacancy for the wastewater treatment plant operator to replace Tallent.

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