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By Kevin Griffin, Hickory Daily Record
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Conover Councilman Joie Fulbright, left, talks with newly-hired City Manager Tom Hart following the council's vote to approve Hart's contract.  Hart, currently the city manager of Clinton, North Carolina, will officially start in Conover on March 14. Photo by Robert C. Reed, Hickory Daily Record

The Conover City Council voted unanimously Friday afternoon to approve a contract with Tom Hart, 36, who currently serves as the manager of Clinton in eastern North Carolina.

Friday’s vote brings an end to the four-month search by the city with the assistance of the Western Piedmont Council of Governments to fill the vacancy left by longtime manager Donald Duncan.

Duncan is now the county manager in Caldwell County.

Hart, who graduated from Appalachian State University and served as manager in Boiling Springs, said he and his wife Megan were eager to be back in the western part of the state. They will bring with them their two young children, Eliza and Thomson.

“I think that the city of Conover’s history of long-tenured managers really speaks to the community and the elected officials,” Hart said.

He also spoke to some of the challenges he will face as he steps into the job.

“There’s a lot of supply chain issues when you’re trying to get projects done,” Hart said. “It’s hard to get good folks into positions and obviously municipalities are struggling with all of those same things, so I think we’re going to be trying to run the city and trying to attract quality development here. And I think we’re going to do a good job with that.”

He said he believes effective communication will be essential to tackling these problems.

Mayor Kyle Hayman said the city received interest from many candidates from as far away as Texas, but it was Hart’s experience that appealed to city leaders.

“He has experience building downtowns with the Main Street Program,” Hayman said. “The thing that stuck out to me is he has a lot of experience with infrastructure, and I think that’s important for him to have that. He’s going to be able to come in and hit the ground running with a lot of the different projects that we have.”

Hart officially takes over as manager on March 14, and he said he is in the process of moving to Conover.

He will earn a $130,000 salary. Duncan was earning almost $105,700, according to data provided by the city last year.

Hayman said Jimmy Clark, the city’s former public works director who is serving as the city’s interim manager, would likely stay on for a time after Hart takes the job to help Hart get acclimated.


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