Edinburgh town manager, planner roles are long-vacant

Edinburgh’s interim town manager initially planned to retire in 2021.

Instead, Wade Watson took over leadership of the town in July 2022, replacing Dan Cartwright, who took a job as Bargersville’s town manager. Watson already held the role of planning director in charge of developing Edinburgh’s short and long-term goals, and now has the additional task of leading the town of 5,000 people. With Watson serving as interim town manager, town officials sought to hire a permanent replacement to relieve him of his duties.

Eight months later, Watson still leads the town and shoulders planning responsibilities, pulling double duty. While town leaders have received applications for both the planning director and town manager positions, candidates who have the experience necessary for those roles are few and far between, he said.

In order to be considered for the planning director position, candidates had to have a bachelor’s degree in urban planning, land-use planning, public administration, architecture or a related field, with a master’s degree preferred. A candidate with certification as a public manager was also preferred, according to a job posting.

With a lack of qualified candidates applying for the position, town officials abandoned the search for a planning director earlier this year, instead shifting their focus to a newly-created zoning officer position, Watson said.

“We advertised through employment agencies and advertised pretty extensively through public agencies. We had a lot of applicants, but no one who was qualified,” Watson said. “The town council made the decision to not seek a planning director but instead meet the needs of a zoning official, who will assist the planning department by enforcement of zoning regulations.”

With fewer responsibilities than a planning director, the zoning officer will be in charge of determining compliance of properties with zoning codes, mediating correction of zoning violations, providing the public with zoning provisions and procedures, and reviewing plans for residential, commercial and industrial construction projects, among other responsibilities. The zoning director will be paid between $18 and $24 an hour, depending on experience.

The town council has also reviewed resumes from previous town manager applicants but rejected them. Town officials are currently conducting interviews for the zoning position, and they’ve partnered with Indianapolis-based consulting firm The Veridus Group to screen candidates for the town manager job, Watson said.

The town manager must plan, organize, direct and coordinate with town council members regarding town operations. They are also in charge of developing administrative policies, ensuring public services are provided to residents and building relationships with community members and business leaders, according to the town website.

The position will pay between $50,000 and $92,650 a year, according to a job listing on simplyhired.com.

It is too early to tell if whoever gets hired as the town manager will have to take on duties connected to the original planning director position town officials posted. Until the zoning position gets filled, however, town employees will have to continue to shoulder additional responsibilities, he said.

“Our office consists of just a handful of people and has all the same needs a (city) the size of Greenwood or Franklin needs to function off of,” Watson said. “It’s a tremendous load all of us have to carry and we have to add staff to meet the needs of the citizens we serve.”

If all goes according to plan, the town council will approve the contract of a new town manager sometime in April, with a zoning director coming aboard around the same time. Once a new town manager is hired, Watson will stick around to help them adjust to their new role, and then he will finally retire, he said.