W. Brian Hiatt has served as Concord's City Manager since 1998. He came to Concord from Hickory where he served as Assistant City Manager for over 10 years. Brian holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in History and Government Service from Appalachian State University where he was a summa cum laude graduate, and a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Active in the community, Brian is a Past President of the Academic Learning Center and continues to serve on that Board. He is on the Board of Directors for the Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation and the Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County. He currently serves as Chairman of the Cabarrus County United Way, his second time serving in that role. Brian served as the Chair of the United Way Campaign in Cabarrus County in 2002. He is a Past-President of the Concord Rotary Club, where he was named Rotarian of the Year in 2012, and the Lake Hickory Rotary Club. He is also a former board member of Hospice of Cabarrus County. He is a Past President of the North Carolina City and County Management Association, having served as President in 2012-13, and has served on several committees supporting the International City and County Management Association. Brian was a member of the Board of Directors of the NC League of Municipalities from 2004 through 2008. Brian is married to Julie, and they have two grown children, Andrew and Erin.
by Brian Hiatt
Celebrating 50 years of the Council-Manager form of government
This summer marks 50 years since the Concord Board of Alderman ratified the appointment of Bradley Barker as City Manager. While records indicate the Board of Aldermen (now City Council) had discussed a switch to the Council-Manager form of government as early as the late 1940s, it was not until July 15, 1965 that Mr. Barker was hired as Concord’s first City Manager. The years in between included many discussions both here in Concord and in Raleigh about the idea.
Certainly a City Manager in 1965 would recognize the duties of the job today. Many of the basic responsibilities have not changed. The City Manager still has to be dedicated to selecting and maintaining a work force committed to professional public service, providing the elected officials with recommendations and advice on policy matters, and implementing policies once adopted. The organization that was to become the International City and County Management Association was over 50 years old in 1965 and its Code of Ethics provided principles for members to follow, just like it does today.
Some of the challenges have not changed either. For example, at the first meeting City Manager Barker attended, the Board of Aldermen approved a resolution requesting “that the North Carolina State Highway Commission be urgently requested to construct a new a by-pass on the East side of Concord…” This “by-pass road up Three-Mile Branch,” now called Branchview Drive, would be completed about eight years later in fall of 1973. Considering the George Liles Parkway Extension, the widening of Derita Road, the Exit 49 projects, and many others, transportation needs continue to be a priority for Concord in 2015.
Other conditions in Concord and certain aspects of the job would be different. In 1965, Concord had about 18,000 residents. Concord in 1960 was only 4.5 square miles and was 5.0 square miles in 1970, so the lack of growth was probably more of a concern than the impact of growth. Today, Concord has a population of 84,000 and growing, and is 61 square miles in size. City Managers working in municipalities with little or even declining growth can clearly articulate the challenges associated with delivering services with little support from a stagnant economy. Those experiencing strong growth like Concord's understand different challenges, such as the need to keep up with service and quality of life expectations of its citizens.
Another example is the change in expectations regarding use of technology and related communication needs. In 1965, newspapers were the primary means of getting information about local government affairs out to the community. If you turned on the television to catch the news before the Andy Griffith Show or Bonanza, you may have had three or four channels to choose from. Today's local government communication strategies involve a combination of multiple tools including publications such as this, dozens of TV and radio news outlets, local and regional newspapers, email, and educational outreach efforts, not to mention the internet and social media.
Another area of change includes sources of revenue. City Manager Barker’s first budget proposals continued the use of the City’s Privilege License Tax Schedule already in place. These charges ranged from $5 for coal dealers “not selling over 100 pounds” to $500 for “Gypsy.” Now the North Carolina General Assembly has eliminated the use of the municipal privilege license tax starting in July, consolidating more authority in Raleigh and putting even more pressure on local property taxes.
While Concord was 50 years behind some other North Carolina cities in adopting the Council-Manager form of government, it still followed the trend found in many municipalities where the tenures of the first managers were fairly short. The transition to the Council-Manager Plan and the resulting shift in responsibilities present a significant change for a community and its elected officials to embrace over time. For example, the first five (of the total seven) Concord managers served a cumulative total of less than 20 years. While the City Manager still serves at the pleasure of the City Council and is subject to change at any time, the position has become more stable in most municipalities in North Carolina.
The Council-Manager form of government continues to play a major role in supporting elected officials in their efforts to deliver essential services both effectively and efficiently. This is particularly true in North Carolina, where the vast majority of local governments use the plan or a variation and have been supported for nearly 85 years by the UNC School of Government. I am proud to serve the Mayor, City Council, and citizens of this great City during the year we recognize the 50th anniversary of the hiring of the first City Manager.
For more information about the Council-Manager form of government, visit icma.org.