New City Manager Calls For Increased Community Partnerships
City Council members unanimously approved Marcus Jones’ appointment as Charlotte’s city manager. Jones, who held the same position for six years in Norfolk, Va, will be Charlotte’s first African-American city manager.
He will face a number of big issues that have greatly divided the city. There’s HB2, calls for more affordable housing and last month’s fatal police shooting of Keith Scott that led to sometimes violent protests.
“I know the last few weeks have been incredibly difficult,” Jones said. “The mayor and council have already taken some initial steps and I am ready to work with them, city staff and this great community to find a path forward.”
Jones says he plans to do a lot of listening in the upcoming weeks. He says he values differing opinions and believes strongly in community participation.
“Government can’t solve it all by ourselves, so you open up the door for community involvement and partnership. I believe that if we are able to pull the community in, build the biggest table that we can, take the diversity of beliefs, ideas and bring them all together I think it will help us race to solutions quicker,” Jones said.
Jones dodged a question about how he thinks the city should approach the HB2 impasse. He says he wants to be better informed on the issue and work with the council to make sure any steps taken will benefit Charlotte.
As for the Scott shooting and the distrust many African-American residents have when it comes to local police, Jones says transparency is important but police have to be more a part of the communities they serve in order to build trust. He says as public safety director in Norfolk, he pushed that kind of strategy.
“We really rolled up our sleeves and we walked the streets and we did programs with the community, whether it’s playing checkers, whether it’s on a Saturday eating hot dogs and hamburgers in a backyard with the chief of police, we sat down to see what are the perceptions and what are the realities and how we can take those all together and work through them,” Jones said.
Jones held several top financial administrative positions in Norfolk and Richmond, and was deputy secretary of finance for two Virginia governors. Council members say that experience coupled with his reputation of being a team player and proponent of customer service, are reasons they hired him.
“He’s very much a data-driven decision maker so I was impressed with that but he’s also a community guy,” said Councilman Al Austin. “He knows what he’s walking into. During the protests a couple of weeks ago he called me and I wanted to get his feel about wanting to come and he still said he was 100 percent in and had ideas about going forward.”
The council approved a $300 thousand dollar base salary for Jones, plus $29 thousand in deferred compensation. His annual car allowance is $5,700 and he has a housing allowance of $2,000 a month for a year. His start date is Dec. 1.