Scandal-plagued Cherryville gets new city manager

Scandal-plagued Cherryville gets new city manager

Scandal-plagued Cherryville gets new city manager

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by JOE DePRIEST / The Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on November 8, 2012 at 12:48 AM

CHERRYVILLE, N.C. -- Lowell City Manager Ben Blackburn will become the new manager in Cherryville, where he grew up.

Cherryville Mayor Bob Austell said on Wednesday local leaders were delighted that Blackburn, who was Cherryville’s city manager in 2000-02, had accepted the job offer in a place recently shaken by scandals.

Suspicion of credit-card misuse led to the resignation or retirement of two long-time Cherryville employees; a former city manager was fired; the FBI filed criminal charges against three police officers; and the police chief and a captain were suspended.

Investigations of the City Hall and police department are ongoing.

Meanwhile, Cherryville Fire Chief Jeff Cash has been serving as acting city manager.

Austell thinks Blackburn will help the city regain public trust.

“He brings to us not only the skills we need, but the ethics to go with it,” Austell said. “He knows our people and our people know him. The entire council wanted him. We’re real pleased.”
Blackburn begins his new job on Dec. 1 at a salary of $72,000, Austell said.

Blackburn, 52, is a 1985 graduate of Appalachian State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and town and county management. He’s also taken post-graduate public administration courses at Appalachian.

He worked two years in the Watauga County tax collector’s office and eight years in the district attorney’s office in Boone as a victim/witness coordinator.

From 1994 until 2000, Blackburn was Cherryville’s planning director.

As Lowell city manager, he’s proud of the progress made in downtown revitalization, the creation of a merchants association and farmers market. He also notes sidewalk improvements as a major accomplishment.

Leaving Lowell, population 3,600 and just across Gaston County from Cherryville, was a tough decision because “it’s a wonderful town,” Blackburn said.

While he knows Cherryville is facing some problems, Blackburn hopes “I can be able to assist them and make it a better town.”

Lowell Mayor Judy Horne said Blackburn has done “an excellent” job during his 10 ½ years there.

“He’s such a good all-around person,” she said. “He’s thorough and intelligent and very honest. I think that’s really what they’re after (in Cherryville.) It’s a good opportunity for Ben. We hate to see him go.”

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