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

On Friday morning Winston-Salem city council named a new city manager in William Patrick Pate, current city manager of Manassas, VA, despite differing preferences among council members.

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

Lee Garrity formerly held the role for 17 years before retiring from the position last month, and Assistant City Manager Johnnie Taylor has been serving as interim city manager since Garrity’s departure. 

Council members voted 5-3 in favor of Pate’s nomination.

With roots in the Triad, William Patrick “Pat” Pate has worked for the city of Manassas since 2013 and served as an assistant city manager for the city of High Point from 1999 to 2013. He was the budget and evaluation director for the city of Greensboro from 1990 to 1999 as well as the budget and research manager for the city from 1987 to 1990. He held three positions with the city of Winston-Salem in the budget department from 1985 to 1987. Pate holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and religion as well as a master’s of public administration, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Pate’s appointment is pending a background check and the execution of a mutually agreed upon contract, a news release from the city states.

Patrice Toney

Vying preferences briefly held back the vote when Northeast Ward council member Barbara Hanes Burke offered a substitute motion to appoint Assistant City Manager Patrice Toney to the role, which was followed by applause from a full house seated in the audience. The motion to appoint Toney instead failed in a 3-5 vote with council members Annette Scippio, James Taylor Jr. and Burke voting in favor. 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 won’t need to be brought up to speed.”

“She has the most experience working for the city of Winston-Salem, in fact she has spent her entire career dedicated to serving and working in this community,” Burke said.

Community leaders and attendees packed the room, which filled with applause during Burke’s remarks.

Toney joined the city in 2016 and served as director of the budget and evaluation office for five years. She now oversees departments such as police, fire, emergency management, human relations/DEI, and community development. Prior to joining the city, Toney worked for Forsyth County Government in budget and management, public health and the library. In a press release from the city, Mayor Pro Tempore Denise D. Adams, who voted in favor of extending the job offer to Pate, said that she felt Pate was the “most experienced and the most qualified.”

“He’s already been a city manager in Manassas and he’s worked in High Point, Greensboro and Winston-Salem,” Adams stated.

This year, Winston-Salem’s total budget is $607.8 million, more than $155 million more than Manassas’ total budget of $452.6 million. In an interview with Triad City Beat, Burke mentioned the differences between the two cities, noting that Manassas is “not the same as Winston-Salem.” According to US Census Bureau data from 2020, Manassas has a population of 42,772 — a sliver of Winston-Salem’s 249,545 residents. Manassas is 58 percent white, 13 percent Black, 38 percent Hispanic and 6 percent AAPI. In contrast, Winston-Salem is 53 percent white, 34 percent Black, 16 percent Hispanic and 3 percent AAPI.

Burke added that Toney has been “right here doing the work. 

“She knows what we need,” Burke added. “She knows about our initiatives, our strategic plans, our goals.”

Going forward with Pate’s selection, Burke said, “I pray that I will be able to work with him so that I can get things done in my ward for my constituents. That’s all I can say.”

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