Davidson hired a Dallas, Texas-based recruiting firm to lead a town manager search that drew 71 applicants from 25 states.
In the end, the mayor and town board didn’t leave Mecklenburg County to find the successor to Leamon Brice, who is retiring Dec. 31 after a quarter-century as Davidson’s chief administrator.
Davidson announced Monday that Matthews Assistant Town Manager James “Jamie” Justice would begin work as Davidson’s town manager Nov. 16. Before going to Matthews, Justice was Mooresville’s town manager from March 2005 to January 2008, when he resigned amid criticism from town board members.
Davidson Mayor John Woods said he and his commissioner colleagues were well aware of how Justice’s tenure in Mooresville ended.
In Mooresville, Justice resigned under pressure from commissioners critical of his management of the town’s sewer plant expansion contract.
A divided board was unsuccessful in forcing Justice out in 2006 after he fired the town’s engineering and utilities director, who had recommended against the firm commissioners chose for the expansion.
Then, in 2008, some commissioners suggested that Justice had tried to conceal a $2 million increase in the sewer expansion contract. The board voted 4-2 to accept Justice’s resignation, and also agreed not to discuss specifics of the manager’s departure or what led to it.
“Jamie brings ample real-world experience to our efforts,” Woods said. “He has seen difficult political situations and has personally and professionally grown through these experiences. He is a positive team player.”
Justice, 43, offered a similar take on his time with Davidson’s neighbor to the north.
“I gained valuable experience in Mooresville dealing with land use, development and transportation challenges, and I think that experience will help me in my role in Davidson,” Justice said. “While my tenure did not end as I wanted, I learned from that experience, and I am a better manager because of it.”
Justice led Mooresville when the town partnered with Davidson to create MI-Connection, the cable company that continues to cost the towns millions of taxpayer dollars a year to cover payments on the $92.5 million debt they incurred when they bought the local remnants of the bankrupt former Adelphia Cable system.
Woods was a Davidson commissioner when the towns created MI-Connection. He’s the only Davidson elected official involved in the purchase who remains in office.
“I do have experience and background to bring to the table in Davidson as it deals with the future of MI-Connection,” Justice said. “I look forward to working with all the parties involved to determine the best course of action for Davidson.”
Before coming to Mooresville, Justice also served as town manager in Troy, a small town on the edge of the Uwharrie National Forest. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Methodist University in Fayetteville and a master’s degree in public administration at Appalachian State. He is married and has two children.
“I am ready to join the team and work toward keeping Davidson the special place that it is,” Justice said.
The overlap with the outgoing Brice is by design. When Brice announced in March that he planned to step down Dec. 31, Woods and his town board colleagues said they would use the long lead time to have a replacement on the job in time to work alongside Brice before the end of the year.
“We unanimously and enthusiastically chose Jamie for this position,” Woods said. “Our community has grown steadily and at times dramatically in the past 25 years, and we are confident Jamie is the right choice to lead us in a time when more population growth is expected.”
Justice’s salary, length of contract and other details had not yet been finalized as of Tuesday afternoon, Davidson spokeswoman Cristina Shaul said. Commissioners are expected to approve the new manager’s contract at their Oct. 27 work session.
John Deem is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.