Fenwick's town manager search gets underway

Fenwick Island’s search for a town manager proceeded this week with a March 6 meeting of the first of two committees tasked with the project.

Former Town Council Member Edward “Buzz” Henifin chairs the committee and led off the meeting with a review of where the committee’s early-stage research on the position stands.

Henifin said he had already been warned by one expert set to advise the committee later in the process that there would be two major areas of concern that the committee would need to tackle:

1) Concerns that the Town Council would micro-manage the town manager once that person is hired. The issue was cited as a major hurdle and Henifin referenced another Delaware town’s recent loss of its town manager after just one year, due to problems with the town council being perceived as micro-managing that position.

2) The need to hire someone with a strong background in finance. Some 50 percent of the position deals with finances, Henifin estimated.

Henifin also presented committee members with an early draft of an informational sheet that describes the various management styles of towns in the area, ranging from whether the job description for such a position exists in the town code or elsewhere to whether special requirements exist for applicants to qualify for the job. For example, he cited requirements for an engineering background in both Rehoboth Beach and Selbyville, where the town manager deals extensively with town-run water and sewer systems.

One of the committee’s first missions in its research phase was a direct mandate from the town council at its February meeting – get the input of town employees as to how their positions would work under a town manager and what problems a town manager might solve for their work lives.

Henifin said he had emphasized to the employees that the interview sessions were not to be used merely to complain about existing problems but should be aimed at giving the committee members insight as to what they should be looking for in both the town manager’s job description and qualified candidates.

Employees interviews were to include Police Chief Colette Sutherland and other key town employees, who were asked to give their candid views on the matter.