Chris Kennedy, the assistant town manager of Southern Pines in Moore County, was named Pittsboro’s town manager last Thursday.
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PITTSBORO — Chris Kennedy, the assistant town manager of Southern Pines in Moore County, was named Pittsboro’s town manager last Thursday.
The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to hire Kennedy to oversee the administration of town government at a meeting at town hall. He comes to the role as a permanent replacement for former Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck, who resigned in late January at the request of the town board.
Gruesbeck had been in the position since late 2012; interim Town Manager Robert Morgan has been serving in the post since early February.
Kennedy, 32, was born in Asheboro and graduated from Southwest Randolph High School and then Davidson College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art. He later attended Auburn University in Alabama, earning master’s degrees in both Community Planning and Public Administration.
He began his career in planning, eventually running the planning department before assuming the assistant town manager post in Southern Pines, which has a population of about 10,000.
Commissioner Micheal Fiocco described Kennedy as an “engaging individual” with a “very good skillset.” Fiocco also noted that his experience in planning will make him a “nice asset” for the town as it continues to grow with Chatham Park, the 7,000-acre planned community under development in Pittsboro.
Kennedy is looking forward to the “big move” to Pittsboro.
“I’m a big believer in that I have to fully invest in the community,” Kennedy said. “This is particular of jobs I have looked into. This isn’t a profession transaction. It’s me and my family, investing in the foreseeable future. And it’s all part of that package. I want to be part of the Pittsboro community.”
Through a series of reviews of qualifications and interviews with various commissioners, the board determined Kennedy would be the best choice for moving the town forward out of the 65 applicants.
Pittsboro Mayor Jim Nass called it the “most strenuous process I’ve had the occasion to be associated,” adding “the board worked tirelessly.”
“They devoted full time and attention to this process,” Nass said. “I salute each and every one of these commissioners on behalf of the town of Pittsboro.”
Commissioner Jay Farrell told Kennedy that his hiring represented “an exciting day” for the town.
“It’s a new start for you and for Pittsboro,” Farrell said. “We’re very happy to have you here.”
Following the appointment, Kennedy was sworn in as his wife, Emily held a family Bible. Kennedy’s parents, Dale and Debbie Kennedy of Asheboro, were by his side.
“I am very excited about the opportunity and I’m honored to be your town manager,” Kennedy said. “I can’t wait to serve you all and the community of Pittsboro.”
As Kennedy begins his tenure with the town of Pittsboro, he’s taking the “onboarding” portion of his new job as a learning opportunity and as a way to find opportunities for the town.
“I’m thinking ‘what does Pittsboro do well and what can they be better at and what does Pittsboro not even know that they want to do?’” Kennedy said.
For Kennedy, it’s about learning about the inner workings of the town’s government and its community to find the best ways forward. This includes filling staff positions and creating a “work culture” that serves the town and its employees. Kennedy said he’s “always kind of looked at things as opportunities.” He wants to “focus on the culture” that the town wants and needs, then hire accordingly. At the same time, he wants to start with “foundational positions” with a knowledge and understanding of “what we want” so that the town can hire and support those positions accordingly so that the town “can provide the good services the public expects us to provide.”
Kennedy is most looking forward to getting to know the people of Pittsboro, a town he has been familiar with since a child.
“I feel like Pittsboro people are my people,” Kennedy said. “Yes, I wear a tie to work, but I mean I’ve been around cows my whole life. I feel like I’m uniquely positioned. I can talk cows or I can talk real estate investment trust with Chatham Park."
"My challenge is making sure Pittsboro stays Pittsboro,” Kennedy continued. “Keeping it unique. In a historical context and in its character, that is the way it is because Pittsboro kept it unique...as well as positioning it for success.”
Kennedy wants the community to know he’s an “open book” and is approachable.
“Sometimes it’s just saying ‘hey’ — feel free to say ‘hey,’” Kennedy said. “I want to be part of the community. I want people to know that I’m here for them. I’m going to be part of the same community that I’m working to make better.”
Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.