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City Council tabs Marcia Conner new city manager

Durham City Council members voted unanimously yesterday to hire Marcia Conner, currently assistant city manager of Austin, Texas, to be the city's first female manager.

The forty-three-year-old has worked in Austin since 1994 and was the budget director of Arlington, Va., from 1989 to 1994.

If she accepts the position, Conner will replace Lamont Ewell, who left in December to become city manager of San Diego, Calif.

"I think, based on things she had to say, that she's the kind of person who can lead a community," said council member Lewis Cheek.

Conner, a native of Columbia, S.C., would come to the city at a critical time-Durham faces a $10 million shortfall for the 2001-02 budget and struggles over downtown development.

"She's a very competent professional with a strong experience in planning and budgeting who has a vision for this community," said Floyd McKissick, a council member. McKissick said he hopes the deal will be closed by Thursday.

Just following the vote, council members met in closed session to discuss Conner's contract. Conner earns $120,000 in her Austin job; Ewell left the position with a salary of $150,623.

Mayor Nick Tennyson said he thinks Conner will accept the position. "She's no less interested today than when she made that speech Saturday-'I want to be your city manager,'" he said, quoting her.

Conner could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In the decision to tap Conner over fellow finalists Bill Hargett, assistant city manager of Pompano Beach, Fla., and John Rowe, interim city manager in Clifton Forge, Va., council members were impressed by Conner's energy and knowledge, said Mayor Pro Tem Howard Clement.

"She brings youthful vigor to the management process," he said.

The selection follows a Saturday public forum where Conner emerged the favorite of many audience members. At the forum, Conner maintained that development must be in sync with the ability of the school system to handle growth and that the city government's staff should reflect the diversity of its community.

Clement said public support for Conner weighed into the decision. "It certainly was a positive impact, but was not the deciding factor," he said.

Conner, president of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators, has a bachelor's degree in English and a master's in community planning.

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