HUNTERSVILLE – It has not been a well-kept secret – and absolutely nothing will be finalized until Huntersville commissioners make a decision on May 8 – but as of now all indications are that longtime Cornelius Town Manager Anthony Roberts will assume the same position in Huntersville starting June 1.
Roberts, who came to Cornelius in 2001 as assistant town manager and moved into the town’s top administrative position two years later, has confirmed he has met numerous times with Huntersville officials and expects to be appointed as the town’s new manager.
Consideration of naming a new town manager and approving a contract are items on the Huntersville board’s May 8 agenda. As currently outlined, Huntersville would pay Roberts $180,000 a year, about $20,000 more than his salary in Cornelius.
“Nothing is signed, nothing is set in stone,” Roberts said. “Things could change, and nothing is confirmed until the board acts on Monday night, but that is the plan.”
Roberts said he pursued the Huntersville job when the town’s search for a manager began in February.
“It was something I went after,” Roberts said. “It is a job that intrigues me. I expressed my interest and sent in my application and went through the evaluation process just like everybody else. And I’m happy with the way things have worked out.”
Huntersville’s previous Town Manager Gerry Vincent resigned in late January after an altercation at his home led to misdemeanor assault charges. Jackie Huffman, Huntersville’s finance director and interim assistant town manager (and a former Cornelius finance director), was appointed to serve as interim town manager a few days later.
Huffman made it clear to Huntersville commissioners right after her appointment that she did not want the position full-time, and the town’s search for a new manager began.
Roberts said his decision to seek the job in Huntersville was not based strictly on finances or any dissatisfaction with Cornelius but triggered instead by the opportunity the new position offers.
“I love Cornelius,” Robert said. “The town has been very good to me and my family. But I’ve never shied away from challenges and opportunities, and I see a lot of possibilities in Huntersville.
“Huntersville is bigger, 30,000 compared to 60,000,” Roberts continued, referencing the towns’ general population figures, “and I know that can mean bigger problems and issues, but there is also a tremendous opportunity to grow and make some significant achievements.”
He admitted the higher salary, which also includes some standard amenities like a car allowance and the continuation of municipal employee benefits, is a draw but did not weigh heavily on his decision.
“It’s a bigger place, a larger stage,” Roberts said. “Many of the challenges Huntersville faces are the same types of things Cornelius deals with but in most cases on a larger scale. I am intrigued by the challenge. I’m looking forward to it.”
Roberts added that the planned June 1 transition date (in the heart of municipal budget-adoption season) may seem odd, but for the most part the preparations are finished.
“It’s not really an issue,” he said. “The budget planning process, getting the information compiled, has pretty much been completed, in both towns.”
Roberts said he has met several times with Huffman and other Huntersville administrative personnel, and, if things go as planned on Monday, he will begin setting up times to meet with the town’s department heads.
“Of course I already knew Jackie from the years we worked together in Cornelius, and I already know who most of the department heads are,” Roberts said, referencing the multiple interactions the neighboring towns have had, “but now I’ll have the chance to really get to know them.”
Roberts’ path to position
Roberts, who grew up in a tobacco farming family in Dolphin, Va., attended Louisburg College near Raleigh studying civil engineering. He finished his college career at UNC-Charlotte, earning a bachelor of arts and a master’s degree in geography, with a concentration in planning.
He worked with the Centralina Council of Governments organization for about five years – working directly with Cornelius on several annexation issues and other municipal management matters – before he was hired as the first town administrator in Stallings. In 2001, he was hired as assistant town manager in Cornelius. And in 2003, he moved up to fill the town’s chief administrative position.
Roberts said one of his first moves as town manager was hiring Andrew Grant as assistant town manager. And Roberts said he expects Grant, with 15 years of experience in Cornelius, will be his successor.
Roberts and his wife, Bronwyn, have a daughter and two sons. The family previously lived in Huntersville and now lives off Bethel Church Road in Cornelius.