Gunnell named new manager in Clemmons

Published 11:55 am Tuesday, February 15, 2022

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By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

The Village of Clemmons didn’t have to look far to find a new manager.

In Monday night’s meeting, the council voted unanimously to appoint Mike Gunnell as village manager. Gunnell, who has held several positions with Clemmons since being hired in 2012, has served as interim manager since Scott Buffkin resigned for personal reasons Jan. 14.

Although the item wasn’t specifically on the agenda, Elliot Fus mentioned during the attorney’s report about “working some with Mr. Gunnell about proposed contract for a permanent manager,” and the final agenda item was a closed session “to discuss an employment contract.”

After a few minutes in the closed session, Mayor Mike Rogers said no action was taken, and then a motion was made to authorize finance director Ann Stroud to do a budget amendment related to and approve the agreement presented to council for the employment of Gunnell as village manager.

Gunnell said he didn’t see this coming when he was appointed as interim director a month earlier but is excited about the opportunity.

“I’d like to thank council, and I’ll do the best I can,” Gunnell said. “I look to keep everything moving between the council, residents of Clemmons and staff.”

After Buffkin’s sudden departure, Rogers said at the time that Mary Cameron and Bradley Taylor would head up a search committee for the council through the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, and he added it would an ongoing process with no time frame. But, as it turned out, it didn’t take long for Clemmons to settle on staying with Gunnell.

According to a press release released by the village, “As work began on establishing a search for the vacant position, it was the mayor and council’s first choice to offer the position to Gunnell,” who previously held positions in Clemmons as stormwater engineer, public works director, village engineer and village assistant manager.

Rogers said, “Mike has thorough knowledge of all departments, stays up to date on the pulse of the community and has an excellent rapport with staff. It was an obvious choice.”

Gunnell, 59, holds a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Charlotte. He has held previous positions working for consulting firms in Charlotte; as an assistant engineer for NCDOT Division 11; had a business with a partner; and with Shugart Homes where he was in charge of lining up construction to build subdivisions. He is a registered professional engineer and professional land surveyor.

A native of Mount Airy, Gunnell moved to Clemmons with his family 1975 and has “been in the community a long time.”

He currently resides in Hamptonville in Yadkin County.

In other business in Monday night’s meeting, Mike Combest, who is the council’s Winston-Salem Urban Area Transportation Advisory Committee representative, gave a report on the January meeting with items of interest to Clemmons.

Combest said that the committee, which serves as a forum for cooperative transportation planning and decision-making for the Metropolitan Planning Organization, provided information on four projects of impact or interest to Clemmons — including two that were up for action and received approval.

They were the sidewalk project on Harper Road from Fair Oaks to Morgan Elementary School for $664,000, allowing for additional time to complete, and Lewisville-Clemmons Road for $55.75 million for access management and operational improvements with construction scheduled to start in fiscal year 2025.

Other items of future interest included the Clemmons Pedestrian Plan for $50,000 and the Lewisville-Clemmons Road Interchange/Kinnamon Bridge Study for $200,000.

Combest learned in the meeting that if the council decided it wanted to shift funds to a different study because the situation or priorities may have changed without losing those funds, it would be allowed to do so.

“I asked the question, and the answer was yes,” he said. “There is a very specific staff process to do that. I checked with Pat Ivey in Division 9, and he confirmed that. We have that option in front of us. It’s not something that has to be done immediately, but if council comes to consensus, for example, we’re hard into looking at how to address the congestion during pickup and dropoff (at schools). State funding might be used to study that, and we could switch to that if we so desire.”

That would also apply to the sidewalk project fund allocation, according to Gunnell, when he addressed that topic.

“We can move money to other projects, if we have an interest, if we have another project we want to put ahead of another or we have another priority, then we can switch those funds,” he said. “It has to be projects that we already have been approved for.”

Also in Monday night’s meeting, the council received an update from Shannon Ford, director of marketing and communications, on gathering information regarding a community center discussed in the previous meeting in January.

“I have been scheduling quite a bit of meetings now to kind of start our needs’ assessment on the community center,” she said.

Ford said she had currently met with the Jerry Long Family YMCA and the Clemmons Library Branch and has “a lot more on my list. It’s been very eye-opening for me. I didn’t realize we had that much, so another great thing that’s going to come about with this process is our ability to help market to our residents what other people are offering our residents as well. We are just strengthening the partnerships that we already in existence and growing those.”

Planner Nasser Rahimzadeh said he recently came across an item in the Clemmons Community Compass and top projects in the execution chapter included “coming up with community gateways, developing community gathering spaces and village branding. I would say, based on that alone, maybe it isn’t a bad idea.”

In other highlights from Monday night’s meeting, the council:

• Heard from Fus in the attorney’s report about being in court related to the new Hawgfish restaurant and an injunction order by the judge in favor of the village commanding the property owner to apply for a stormwater permit and a driveway permit. Fus said there has been “some followup with the property owner and his counsel, so things are already moving in a more productive direction on that one.” In another matter, Fus said that the sewer extension agreement with The Lake at Belmont LLC and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities is definitely off and the utilities commission confirmed “that the agreement we had discussed previously is void and we’re not moving forward on that.”

• Approved a resolution creating a Sustainable Development and Smart Growth ad-hoc committee. The name was changed from “Natural Resources” to give a better idea of how many things this committee will cover. Rahimzadeh said, “I have every intention of meeting the Clemmons Compass goals as outlined for this project.”

• Held a discussion, headed by Combest and detailing his research on the roles, responsibilities and authorities of the council, mayor and manager in General Ordinances. Combest said: “A lot of this is my intent to consolidate and normalize what a lot of other towns have done.” It was also pointed out by Cameron that this discussion isn’t about the current mayor or council but “just something that we’re looking at for the future.”

• Received an update from Steve Gearren, public works director, on FacilityDude, a software provider that helps manage facilities maintenance needs. The village pays $8,000 annually for the service, and after a discussion, it was decided to find out what else FacilityDude can do that the village might be interested in and is already paying for, and then looking at another options that would handle just the capabilities Clemmons is now utilizing and what the cost would be.

• Approved a resolution amending the records retention and disposition schedule.

• Heard from Ford in the Marketing/Communications report that the village was “overflowing with food donations” during a month-long campaign in February of Neighbors Helping Neighbors — an educational and collection campaign for the Clemmons Food Pantry with weekly themes. She added that there will be a “big event” at the Clemmons Food Pantry on Saturday, Feb. 26, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

• Heard from Wes Kimbrell, stormwater engineer, about looking into a Live Stakes program — after receiving positive feedback from the community — for homeowners to be able to plant trees on stream banks to repair any erosion issues and provide future stabilization.