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Raleigh City Council names interim city manager

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City Council named current city Chief Financial Officer Perry James as Raleigh's interim City Manager. City Council named current city Chief Financial Officer Perry James as Raleigh's interim City Manager.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Raleigh City Council named a new interim city manager a little more than month after it announced it would not renew City Manager J. Russell Allen's employment contract.

City Council convened Thursday afternoon to name current city Chief Financial Officer Perry James as Raleigh interim City Manager. James came to the City in March 1982 as assistant finance director.

In Raleigh's council form of city government, the city manager is the day-to-day manager of city affairs, and the position reports to the City Council. The city manager is critical to the budget process, which is currently ongoing.

On April 17, City Council voted not to renew Allen's employment contract. At the time, City Council did not address why it decided not to retain Allen.

Gaylord said, "I am thankful for Russell's service to the City of Raleigh and I wish him all the best.  This is an internal personnel matter, and it wouldn't be appropriate for me to discuss any further."

Council member Bonner Gaylord said the only council members opposed to the move were Mary Ann Baldwin and Eugene Weeks.

Allen, reached by a WNCN reporter, said he couldn't answer why the decision was suddenly made. He did not confirm or deny if a performance evaluation led to his dismissal but said an evaluation is due every year at this time.

Allen makes a salary of $232,000 annually. He will remain city manager through July 1, when his contract expires.

The departure of Allen would end the long, and overall successful, tenure of one of the city's most powerful leaders. For example, Allen led the decision in 2006 to block a bold idea by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa that would have transformed City Plaza with a colorful display of lights and water.

Allen was concerned that Plensa's project would block the view from the Capitol to Memorial Auditorium, which opened up when the old Civic Center was torn down.

Plensa eventually withdrew from the project after the city set strict parameters for what he could do, and many in the arts community in Raleigh saw the demise of the project as a missed opportunity for a bold and visionary plaza in the heart of the city.

But Allen drew praise for shepherding the building of the new Convention Center and overseeing a growing city that functioned relatively smoothly despite difficult economic times. And downtown Raleigh in particular began to thrive in that tenure as restaurants, condominiums and stores began to flourish in the heart of the city.

Allen did take some criticism for accepting a $10,000 raise in 2009, at the height of the recession.

Allen came to Raleigh from Rock Hill, S.C., in 2001, when Paul Coble was mayor. In his 12 years in Raleigh, the city is routinely named one of the nation's best places to live. The city population was 302,000 in 2001 and shot to 416,000 in July 2011.

He replaced Dempsey Benton, who served in the role from 1983 to 2000 before moving to senior roles in state government.

When Allen took over in 2001, he created a "5 and 5" plan that proposed five major changes, including opening Fayetteville Street to traffic and a new convention center.

But he also dealt with the tough side of the recession, with the city eliminating some jobs and leaving some vacant positions open.

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