Featured photo: William Patrick Pate is Winston-Salem’s new city manager (courtesy photo)

Following a closed session on Monday, Winston-Salem City Council members voted to approve the contract of William Patrick “Pat” Pate to be the new city manager in a 5-3 vote. Pate was most recently the city manager of Manassas, Va. Council members Barbara Hanes Burke, Annette Scippio and James Taylor, Jr. dissented. Assistant City Manager Johnnie Taylor has been serving as the interim city manager since the departure of longtime city manager Lee Garrity in June.

Pate’s selection was announced last month during a July 14 special meeting of the city council and has since been fraught with disapproval from local organizations, including the Winston-Salem NAACP and the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity. Many community leaders say they would have preferred Assistant City Manager Patrice Toney for the role instead. Toney supervises the community development, emergency management, fire, police, and human relations/diversity, equity and inclusion departments. Toney, who would have been Winston-Salem’s first Black female city manager, has worked for the city since 2016. Prior to joining the city, Toney worked for Forsyth County Government in budget and management, public health and the library.

Patrice Toney

On Aug. 3, the Winston-Salem Journal reported a statement from the Winston-Salem NAACP that pushed back against the city’s decision. 

“We all know that the city of Winston-Salem has never allowed the opportunity for a woman, yet a woman of color to occupy this position,” the NAACP said. “Winston-Salem’s female population is roughly at 131,000, and of that population 24 percent are Black. Black females and women of color are indeed important stakeholders in our community.”

The Journal also reported that the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity resisted the hiring as well, asking Mayor Allen Joines and the city council for a meeting on the hiring process. However, the meeting was turned down by City Attorney Angela Carmon on the council’s behalf. Carmon said that because the hiring process was a personnel decision discussed behind closed doors, the city could not meet to discuss the matter with the group.

On Aug. 10, NAACP representative Laura Ellerbe told TCB that the organization “has no comment concerning the letter.”

During the July 14 meeting, Burke made the case that Toney has more that 25 years of “dynamic” and “progressive” experience within the city and would be able to “hit the ground running tomorrow doing the work.”

“She has spent her entire career dedicated to serving and working in this community,” Burke said. The council chambers filled with the applause of community leaders and attendees during Burke’s remarks.

In an interview with Triad City Beat the same day, Burke noted that Toney has been “right here doing the work.”

Burke added: “She knows what we need.”

TCB has not been able to get in touch with Burke or Toney regarding this topic since the July 14 meeting.

Who’s the new city manager?

Pate, who has close to 30 years of experience working for Triad cities like Greensboro and High Point, told TCB on Aug. 8 that he had resigned with Manassas that day. He worked as the budget and evaluation director for Greensboro and was an assistant city manager in High Point.

Pate noted that he’d agreed to start his new job with the city no later than November 1.

Pate commented on what the city’s hiring proceedings were like. 

“All I’ll say on the selection process, it was a very intense thorough selection process that we — each of the candidates — had to go through,” he said. 

Pate said he believes the city council did their “due diligence.”

“I was born and raised in North Carolina and spent the bulk of my career in North Carolina, in the Triad area,” Pate mentioned, adding, “We’ve got a lot of friends and family in North Carolina, a lot of contacts in the Winston Salem area, and I have always loved that area of North Carolina and Winston-Salem in particular.”

Pate said that he is “very much looking forward” to coming back to the city and “returning to be an active part of the community.”

Pate spent two years — 1985-87 — working as a budget and evaluation analyst for the city of Winston-Salem. Pate knew former city manager Lee Garrity, who joined the city in 1990 as a budget analyst before rising through the ranks. 

“I’d left before Lee came to Winston-Salem but I was in the area,” Pate said, adding that they connected a lot in their professional networks. 

Pate added that he’s connected with “many of the other folks” in the city’s staff, noting that he knew Mayor Allen Joines when they both worked for the city. Before his tenure as mayor, Joines worked as deputy city manager for Winston-Salem from 1971-2000.

“I’m very much looking forward to working with all the staff members — senior staff in particular — but everybody in the city to make sure that we’re doing those things that are going to make Winston Salem the absolute best place for all the residents of the city,” Pate said.

Like other large cities in North Carolina, Winston-Salem operates under a council-manager form of government. The city council determines city policies and the city manager is hired by council to put those policies into action and oversee the day-to-day operations of the city.

Among other tasks like developing the budget, city managers also shape hiring decisions and the city as an organization. 

Learn more about the role city managers play in local government here.

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