Hendler-Voss named Canton town manager

By DeeAnna Haney | Mar 28, 2014

The 15-month search for a new town manager in Canton came to an end Thursday night when the board of aldermen named Seth Hendler-Voss as the man for the job.

Hendler-Voss, who is leaving his current job as the park planning and development manager for the city of Asheville, begins April 14.

Former town manager Al Matthews announced his plan to retire in January last year, which gave the previous board a full year to search for his replacement. By November, no headway had been made.

Assistant Town Manager Jason Burrell took over as interim manager after Matthews' departure, and the current board, which includes four brand-new aldermen, sifted through about 80 applications to narrow the field to three finalists.

Hendler-Voss, Burrell and Vincent Wong, a budget and business systems analyst for the city of Gastonia, were introduced to the community at a meet and greet in February.

During Thursday's regularly scheduled board meeting, Alderman Carole Edwards made a motion to hire Hendler-Voss, which was seconded by Alderman Ralph Hamlett. In a four to one vote, Alderman Zeb Smathers was the only dissenting vote.

Those who supported the decision, including Mayor Mike Ray, spoke of Hendler-Voss as a positive change for the town.

"When I ran for this position I ran on positive change and I ran because I wanted to do what was right for my town and for all of you. Tonight looking at you [Hendler-Voss],  I know that I'm living that promise I made, that the choice we made guarantees a positive change for our town," Hamlett said.

Despite his vote against hiring Hendler-Voss, Alderman Zeb Smathers spoke positively about the new manager.

"You're going to do a great job, and I have all the confidence in the world in you and for your family coming here. Great things are getting ready to happen to this town," he said.

He urged the new town manager to take a look at the employees present in the room.

"We have the best town employees in the state of North Carolina," he said. It needs to be known everywhere that we are open for business, and we will accomplish great things by working together."

Following the meeting, Smathers said the reason for his vote against Hendler-Voss was because he was seeking a candidate with past experience as a town manager.

"Though we are a small population, we deal with major issues," he said, referring to being a mill town and working on growing economic development. "I thought it was best that we choose a new town manager with experience."

After comments from the public, he said he thought the community felt the same.

"No matter the vote, though, we have a very intelligent, energetic town manager who already has a passion to make Canton better," he said.

Edwards said the board did not make this decision hastily.

"We gave it great thought, great consideration and personally for me its an opportunity for us to move our town forward and do some things we need to do to grow our town and bring it back somewhat to its former glory," she said.

Hendler-Voss took a moment to speak to the room full of people after the announcement was made.

"To me, the town of Canton typifies the enduring spirit of small-town America. For nearly 120 years Canton has led Haywood County in the provision of quality, high paying jobs and has demonstrated to the region as a whole what the mountain values of hard work, perseverance and pride look like," he said.

He went on to say he looks forward to working with town employees to "think creatively about how we might build upon existing service delivery systems and set a model of excellence for our sister communities in the county."

He also commended Burrell for his work as interim town manager.

"I have only met Jason once, but it is apparent that he is someone who cares deeply about the welfare of the employees of this organization and has contributed to significant changes over the last five years. Jason, I look forward to working with you," he said.

Hendler-Voss is coming into the job with a plan to work closely with the board and the mayor to figure out how to expand development along Champion Drive, enhance downtown beautification and advance recreation opportunities in town.

"My goal in this position is simple," he said. "Work as hard as I can and do everything I can to support the board and support you, the community, in making Canton the best town it can be. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work."

He and his wife, Amanda, who is a pastor at Land of the Sky United Church of Christ in Asheville, and their two children, plan to move to the Canton city limits as soon as possible, he said.

The mayor would only say that the new manager's salary is "being worked on" and that it would be available in the office when it is made public.

As assistant town manager, Burrell earns $53,000 annually. Matthews earned $82,000.

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