Cary, N.C. – We met with Cary Town Manager Ben Shivar on Friday. We sat down in the conference room in the Administration Building on Academy Street.
It was “casual Friday” and staff was scurrying around in jeans. Ben had on a sports jacket and button down. I teased him about it and he chuckled.
Ben is a pleasant, thoughtful man. “Tell me about your background”, I said. “Well, I have 33 years in local government service,” he said. We joked about whether or not that makes him qualified for the job and then we talked for an hour and a half.
Ben got his bachelor’s degree from UNC Charlotte in political science. He also received a master’s degree from NC State in public affairs. He started his career in Greenville as a planner and moved on to Community Development Director over time. He later went to Siler City as Town Manager, a position he held for 8 years. In 1990 he moved on to be the Chatham County Manager.
His move to Cary in 1995 was to hold a position as Assistant to (then) Town Manager Bill Coleman. After 13 years in this position, Ben was named interim Town Manager. Finally in March of 2009 he became Cary’s Town Manager. The position of Assistant Town Manager was filled by Mike Bajorek.
Ben started the conversation by by talking about the challenges we face with the economic downturn. He talked about the “appropriate steps” that Cary staff and Town Council took to maintain service levels while cutting costs.
“We took on a $20 million reduction of projects, mostly roads and parks. We have also seen a reduction in water and sewer consumption, due to the weather over the past couple of years along with public conservation awareness,” Shivar said.
Listening To and Responding To Cary
Ben wanted to stress the importance of the communications channels between our town and its people. He sang the praises of Susan Moran, Public Information Officer and Deanna Boone, Deputy Public Information Officer. He told us that this is one of the key differences between Cary and other towns. Shivar’s predecessor began the work to enhance public information availability and it continues to be a priority.
“This is Cary’s culture,” he said. “We televise meetings, we provide newsfeeds through e-mail subscriptions services, we have aggressive targets for responding to the people’s concerns.”
In the Town of Cary we focus every day on enriching the lives of our citizens by creating an exceptional environment and providing exemplary services that enable our community to thrive and prosper. -The back of Ben Shivar’s business card
The Development Vision
Ben Shivar talked about the future of the development of Cary. The next 5 years will essentially be an extension of what we see now. Most of the development will be in western Cary and the southern part of Cary near Holly Springs.
At some point, in 10 years or so, he envisions redevelopment and projects involving the older parts of Cary. When things “pick up” we will need to concentrate on the center of town as well, he informed us.
We also need to focus on our attention to staving off crime rate increases and the environmentally responsible supply of water to the town and alternate sources. Indeed, one of the main reasons that Cary was originally settled by the native Americans was the topography providing available river water.
Transit and traffic is also a priority for the future. The Town Council is debating this now, discussing regional and high speed rail and its effect on our town’s traffic.
Some Final Thoughts
Ben Shivar stressed the management system’s effectiveness in Cary.
“We attract the best people to work in our town’s offices. We have the luxury of being able to hire the brightest people. We are able to bring in people that can be given a direction and execute the plan. We have established a culture and commitment to service. We repeatedly look for ways to improve communications with the people of Cary, be it through electronic means or face-to-face. We believe that it is our job to maintain the look and feel of Cary that we are known for to be able to continue our progress as a desirable place to live, work and play. Importantly, we have an involved and vocal community. “
This week, CaryCitizen News is sponsored by the Carolina Railhawks.