Pittsboro town manager Gruesbeck resigns at board’s request

BY ZACHARY HORNER & CASEY MANN, News + Record Staff
Posted 1/28/20

Pittsboro Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck has resigned from his post as the head of the Town of Pittsboro’s government staff at the request of the town's Board of Commissioners.

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Pittsboro town manager Gruesbeck resigns at board’s request

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PITTSBORO — Pittsboro Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck has resigned from his post as the head of the Town of Pittsboro’s government staff.

Gruesbeck was asked by the town board to tender his resignation, a motion approved unanimously in open session at the end of the board’s Monday meeting. Town Attorney Paul Messick was appointed to serve as interim manager.

“After much discussion, the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners asked Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck to consider resignation,” Mayor Jim Nass, who is still in the early stages of his term, said in a statement. “The board carefully considered the challenges facing Pittsboro in the months and years ahead and decided they wanted to move forward with different town leadership to meet these challenges.”

Gruesbeck has been town manager since November 2012 after working in municipal government in Michigan. His resignation was effective immediately.

Commissioner John Bonitz told the News + Record that he was “thankful” for Gruesbeck’s service.

“I’ve frequently expressed respect and thanks for his rock solid budget work and prudent financial management,” Bonitz said. “That has been so important to our small town with our over-stretched resources. That said, the board decided we need to go a new direction: The vote to ask for his resignation was unanimous. As Commissioner Jay Farrell said, ‘It’s best for the town.’”

This marks the third change of administrative for Chatham’s local governments within the last 14 months. Former Chatham County Manager Renee Paschal retired from that post in October 2018 and was replaced by Dan LaMontagne, and former Siler City Manager Bryan Thompson left the town on July 14, 2019, to serve as Chatham’s assistant county manager; he was replaced by Roy Lynch.

Additionally, the Town of Pittsboro is now without permanent figures in multiple administrative roles. Town Clerk Alice Lloyd announced Monday she would be retiring in February, and Town Engineer Elizabeth Goodson said she would be resigning to take a position in Holly Springs. Long-time Parks Planner Paul Horne left in November 2019 to work in Washington state.

Nass said the town is in the process, with the likely assistance of the N.C. League of Municipalities, of seeking a long-term interim manager while a formal search for a permanent manager is under way. Gruesbeck’s role, according to the town website, has been to serve “at the pleasure of the Board of Commissioners as the administrative head of the town government responsible for the supervision and administration of all departments and employees.”

Commissioner Kyle Shipp declined to comment on Gruesbeck’s resignation, and messages to Commissioners Jay Farrell and Pamela Baldwin were not returned by press time. Commissioner Michael Fiocco earlier confirmed to the News + Record that discussions about Gruesbeck’s performance and his future with the town occurred prior to the board meeting Monday.

Prior to his tenure in Pittsboro, Gruesbeck was hired as the town manager of Freemont, Michigan, in 2009. According to a story in the Freemont Times-Indicator, he was fired by the town’s board on July 10, 2012. The board did not publicly say at the time why Gruesbeck was terminated.

Calls to Messick at his office were not returned by press time Tuesday.

Earlier in Monday’s meeting, the town’s board took a virtual “test drive” on the new Chatham County Comprehensive Water and Wastewater Utility Master Plan’s digital dashboard.

The plan, created in tandem with the county and its municipalities and by engineering firm Hazen and Sawyer, provides a tool to look at water and wastewater needs and alternatives. Hazen and Sawyer engineer James Hennessey guided the board through the tool, which provides Pittsboro, Chatham County and its other municipalities an in-depth look at how pursuing different water and wastewater solutions would impact supply through the year 2070.

Pittsboro faces significant challenges in both areas because of its growth, particularly for additional sources of water and wastewater disposal. The board’s next step is to evaluate its alternatives, particularly the expansion of its existing plants and the potential construction of new facilities.

“We can analyze this for a long time,” Commissioner Kyle Shipp said during the meeting, when inquiring about decisions the board faces on water and wastewater, “but somebody’s going to have to tell us (something like) ‘You’re going to have to decide by October, A or B.’”

Goodson said Pittsboro needed to narrow its focus on prioritizing options to pursue and then “take the next logical step.”

Gruesbeck, prior to his resignation, said the town was “in a holding pattern on one or two things.”

His departure, and Goodson’s, places additional urgency on those questions as the town deals with growth and demand.

In other business, the board adopted a resolution designating February as Black History Month in Pittsboro and referred a zoning request and an annexation request to the town’s planning board.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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