The City Council has unanimously approved hiring David Cooke as city manager, even as the staff hashes out details of his employment contract.
“There are just a couple little things in his contract we are working on,” Mayor Betsy Price said.
The council will not need to vote on the terms and compensation package. Cooke had a base salary of $239,000 in Wake County, N.C.
“I think we got a great candidate and I think the results have been incredible,” Price said.
Cooke, 54, retired county manager of Wake County, N.C., was announced Friday as the finalist for the top manager slot, after City Manager Tom Higgins, who has been with the city for nearly 30 years, announced his retirement in October.
Higgins, who makes $233,400 a year, agreed to stay on until a successor is chosen and said it is up to Cooke as to when he finally leaves the county.
“I told him this weekend, I said: ‘When you arrive, you are in charge, you are the city manager. Whatever you need from me to do, I am happy to stay and help with the transition’,” Higgins said.
“Once he is comfortable, I am ready to move on.”
Price said that the city has a tentative start date for Cooke of June 30 but that it could be in early July.
The council met with Cooke and another candidate, Penny Postoak Ferguson, 45, behind closed doors for about three hours last week. Members deliberated for less than an hour before backing Cooke.
The company that the city hired to conduct a national search for the city manager, the Whitney Smith Co., a human resources consulting and executive search firm, is negotiating Cooke’s contract.
Cooke was county manager in Wake County from 2000 to 2013 and was deputy county manager from 1996 to 2000.
He also worked for the city of Charlotte, N.C., from 1985 to 1996 in several positions, including budget analyst and manager of internal operations. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.