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Pearson to become permanent Camden city manager

Posted: February 7, 2013 5:53 p.m.
Updated: February 8, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Mel Pearson will become Camden’s new city manager, dropping the word “interim” from the title he’s held since Jan. 4 when former City Manager Kevin Bronson left for Rock Hill. Camden City Council unanimously passed first reading of an ordinance authorizing Mayor Tony Scully to negotiate a contract with Pearson during a special called meeting Tuesday evening.

Pearson’s contract will be effective Feb. 26 when council is expected to pass second and final reading of the ordinance at its next regular meeting.

“If council approves this on second reading, we will be hiring Mr. Pearson as city manager, and proudly so,” Scully announced following a brief executive session.

Councilman Walter Long congratulated Pearson on the promotion.

“You are a tremendous asset to the city. You have guided us and I know our citizens are grateful,” Long said. “You have always given us, and me, very good guidance and advice on decisions we’ve made. You’ve helped move this city forward. This is a very good day for our city.”

Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford joked that council had “finally beat you down.”

“We got you to say yes. Your leadership and stability and knowledge that you bring to this council and this city -- I thank you for that,” she said.

Councilman Willard Polk agreed that he, too, had received much “advice and supervision” from Pearson, both as a chairman of the city’s parks and trees commission and, now, as a councilman.

“It’s very timely that we extend this opportunity to Mel, especially given the timing of this fiscal year,” Polk said, referring to upcoming work on the Fiscal Year 2014 budget and Pearson’s work as the city’s finance director.

“We’re thrilled to death,” added Councilwoman Laurie Parks, sparking a round of applause from council, several members of city staff and a few citizens on hand for the meeting.

Bronson announced his intention to resign for a position in Rock Hill, where he once worked, in late October. Council began the process of seeking his replacement in mid-November, choosing to partner with the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC). The city advertised the position through the MASC and its counterparts in Georgia and North Carolina as well as the International City/County Managers Association through Jan. 18.

Scully confirmed after the meeting adjourned that Pearson had “thrown his hat into the ring,” adding that the city would now focus on finding a new assistant city manager.

A copy of the proposed employment agreement attached to Tuesday’s agenda listed a base annual salary of $114,000, an increase from Bronson’s $107,000 salary which was given to Pearson upon becoming interim city manager. Bronson initially earned $90,000 when he was hired in February 2009. Pearson’s contract will run through Feb. 28, 2014, with an automatic nine-month renewal through Dec. 1, 2014. Subsequent employment terms will be voted on by future iterations of council.

In addition, Pearson will receive a $500 per month vehicle allowance; be allotted certain business expenses, including professional dues and subscriptions; travel/subsistence expenses; approved reimbursements; and membership dues to civic organizations.

The city’s decision to hire Pearson ends a search process that would have seen council and the MASC review applications, determine a list of finalists and nominate a new city manager. MASC Executive Director Miriam Hair said she and the organization have worked with Pearson several times.

“We’ve worked with Mel a lot, including with our insurance and risk management services,” Hair said. “We’ve had a good relationship with him.”

Pearson served as interim city manager once before, when former City Manager Frank Broom retired prior to Bronson’s hiring. He moved to Camden in 1986 as a production manager for a private corporation and served on the staff of the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County for five years. The city hired Pearson as finance director in 1999; he was named assistant city manager in 2011.

In other business, council unanimously:

• proclaimed February as Black History Month in Camden, with Price House Commissioner Pearl Boswell accepting a copy of the proclamation noting that Black History Month exhibits will be displayed at the Price House Feb. 20-24, and that, in the words of event coordinator Clifton Harryton Anderson, “It is not really African-American history -- Black history -- but it is American history regardless of how it makes us feel;’

• passed first reading of an ordinance purchasing a 10-foot easement and right-of-way from Robert H. Lackey and Roderick A. Partin on Commerce Alley for $850 to allow the city in order to install a three-phase ground transformer as part of converting electric lines there from overhead to underground;

• passed first reading of a similar ordinance purchasing another 10-foot easement and right of way from former Councilman Pat Partin for the same purpose;

• accepted a $6,916.15 façade grant application with a maximum city match of $2,500 for Wells Fargo, 1034 Broad St., for its front façade; and

• accepted a $3,533.32 façade grant application with a city match of $1,7666.66, also for Wells Fargo at the same location for its rear façade.

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