The hiring process for the new town manager of Canton began over a year ago, when former town manager Al Matthews put in his notice that he would retire at the end of 2013. It was a lengthy process — one reopened last August — that ultimately resulted in a trio of finalists.
The town board of aldermen ended up selecting Seth Hendler-Voss on a 3-1 vote during its March 27 meeting. Hendler-Voss currently serves as the park planning/development manager of the city of Asheville.
“The town of Canton typifies the enduring spirit of small town America,” the newly selected town manager said. “The community’s profound sense of pride, rich history and the central role it plays in the Haywood County economy attracted me to this opportunity. I’m truly honored to be joining the team, and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves with the staff and energized board and getting to work.”
Ray and members of the board echoed similar sentiments.
“We are thrilled to have Seth join the Canton community and lead the organization to new heights,” the mayor said. “The town of Canton has an abundance of assets that we intend to nurture and leverage to generate new growth and vibrancy for our community. Seth brings the planning, management and people skills to help us achieve this goal.”
Alderwoman Carole Edwards referred to the hiring of a new town manager as a “very thoughtful process.”
“We didn’t make this decision hastily, we gave it great thought and great consideration,” she said. “Personally, for me it’s an opportunity for us to move our town forward, grow our town and bring it back somewhat to its former glory.”
Alderman Dr. Ralph Hamlett said that the selection of Hendler-Voss amounted to making good on a campaign promise.
“When I ran for this position, I ran on positive change, I ran because I wanted to do what was right for my town and for all of you,” the alderman said. “And tonight I look at you [Hendler-Voss], and I know that I’m living that promise that I made, that the choice we made guarantees a positive change for our town. And to our former glory? No, I think we’re just opening the door to tomorrow.”
Alderman Zeb Smathers was the lone vote cast against the hiring.
“I voted ‘no’ because I am a representative of the people of Canton and they told me they wanted someone with preexisting town manager or assistant town manager experience,” he said. “With that said, I sincerely believe that Seth is a very energetic and passionate person to move the town forward, and I truly look forward to start working with him.”
When asked about the lack of specific town managing experience, Hendler-Voss pointed out his extensive work with the city of Asheville and years of working with town managers around the region.
“I would ask that everybody hold on to asking that [experience] question until I have a year at the job,” he said. “The board elected me based on my prior experience and management skills that will translate well into town management.”
Hendler-Voss, 35, will begin his position April 14. As the park planning/development manager for the city of Asheville, he oversaw a staff of 45 within the 870-acre park system. He also has served as the principal landscape architect for the city of Atlanta and was a streetscape designer in the private sector. He holds a degree in Landscape Architecture from Penn State University and a Masters of Public Affairs from Western Carolina University. He will relocate to Canton with his wife Amanda, 36, and two sons, Myles, 7, and Simon, 1. Amanda is also the pastor at the Land of the Sky United Church of Christ in Asheville.
As Canton’s town manager, Hendler-Voss will supervise all service delivery operations of the town. His staff will include 68 full-time employees, with a $7 million operating budget. His key initiatives coming into the position include development along Champion Drive, enhancing downtown beautification and advancing recreation services.
“My goal in this position is simple — 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,” Hendler-Voss said.
Hendler-Voss also noted another goal of his was to build the level of trust between town employees, and between the community. He said he aims to help make the town organization the most effective it can be and also be able to attract the best possible employees in the county.
“I want to engage employees, get them involved in the decision process, find out what excites them, find out what gives them pause, and have an appreciation and respect for what they do,” Hendler-Voss said. “The most important asset in a town manager is to be resourceful, and to find where the best answers lie. I look forward to working with everyone — I want to get out of the gates fast.”