Assistant City Manager
Greensboro, North Carolina
(December 2012) David Parrish has been appointed as deputy city manager for the City of Greensboro, North Carolina. Prior to this appointment he served as assistant city manager for Danville, Virginia, for two years. The following profile was written during his 2007-2010 tenure as town manager of Yanceyville, North Carolina.
Yanceyville, North Carolina
For as long as he can remember, David Parrish has had a desire to make a difference. As town manager in Yanceyville, North Carolina, he has ample opportunity. The manager in this small community (population 2,800) also serves as town clerk, zoning officer, budget officer, personnel officer, and executive director of a women’s shelter operated by the town. “I was looking for complexity when I took this job,” says Parrish, who assumed the manager’s office in 2007, “and I am being bathed in experience.”
Parrish not only took on a multifaceted job, but one with other challenges as well. Yanceyville is located in Caswell County, where the local economy has suffered in recent years as agricultural and manufacturing jobs have sharply declined due to the tobacco buyout programs. However, under Parrish’s management, the town has begun to grow.
Several years ago Yanceyville purchased an abandoned textile mill that is now being renovated to house municipal offices and council chambers. The town has seen other significant growth in the downtown district as well with the arrival of two new restaurants.
Parrish has been working with the Community-Campus Partnership (CCP), a UNC-Chapel Hill campus-wide initiative that brings together community-based organizations with multi-disciplinary teams of Carolina faculty, staff, and students and other state or regional organizations to help meet these challenges in a comprehensive, holistic way. In addition to the new town offices, CCP is working with the Town of Yanceyville on a façade improvement grant program designed to encourage private investment in the historic downtown area and has worked to facilitate the creation of a new artisans’ gallery that will soon occupy a downtown storefront.
When asked about useful skills he brings to his position, Parrish cites “multi-tasking.” He says it is typical for him to be on the phone with one person with someone else on hold, another person sitting in his office, and one more waiting in the hall − each needing to talk about a different topic. Before Yanceyville, Parrish was a management analyst for the City of Danville. He points out that Danville had many different departments with staff to handle specific areas. In Yanceyville, questions about a wide range of issues often come first to Parrish.
Adaptability has been a constant in his career. After graduating from UNC–Greensboro, Parrish joined ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens, now known as The Arc) as a job coach for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. After moving on to work as the recreation director for a continuing care retirement community, Parrish realized he wanted more responsibility and decided to enroll in the MPA program.
When Parrish arrived in Yanceyville, he inherited “a tumultuous situation.” The former manager left on less than positive terms, and the position had been vacant for a time. Parrish faced major projects with quickly approaching deadlines. He worked to meet the deadlines but also to instill confidence in the office with an open-door policy. A town newsletter keeps citizens informed, and Parrish takes time to ride along with staff members when they go out on the job, so that he can be better informed as well.
“This is a good opportunity to use people skills,” Parrish says. “I’ve been a supervisor before, but there was always someone above me. Being a manager is different. Whether I’m picking a paint color for town offices or deciding the consequences when someone hasn’t paid their water bill, I feel the responsibility of that.”
Parrish says that his connections with fellow MPA alumni and faculty are another benefit he continually finds important. Before taking the Yanceyville position, he discussed the opportunity with several alumni who are also town managers. Seeking counsel of this kind gave rise to new and valuable friendships with experienced managers. “It’s nice to know you’ve got support,” Parrish says.
Parrish’s advice to current and future MPA students is to “soak up all you can and be open to new ideas. Make connections with School faculty and with your classmates. Embrace the community. You will value the built-in network once you’re on your own.”