Lexington found its new city manager in James M. Halasz, who was asked by the Halifax County Board of Supervisors to resign as county administrator last year.
The Lexington City Council voted to hire Halasz on Thursday. He began his duties as city manager Friday, according to a news release from the city.
Halasz served as the Halifax County administrator for six years before his resignation in June 2018, when the board of supervisors requested he step down. According to meeting minutes, the board wanted to move in a different direction and have new leadership in the position.
In 2015, Halasz found himself in the center of controversy and a divided board. The Halifax County Board of Supervisors was unable to select a chairman and vice chairman for five months because every motion failed in a 4-4 tie vote. Later, it became clear the board was divided into two blocs based partly on disagreements about Halasz’s performance as county administrator.
That May, a member of the board of supervisors submitted a letter to the local newspaper that said employees had grievances about promotions and management under Halasz. The supervisor also accused Halasz of being insubordinate and taking actions without the consent of the board.
In the letter, the supervisor called for his resignation. One former employee spoke publicly that she had been forced out of her job at the commissioner of the revenue’s office. She accused Halasz of interfering with the management of other offices and creating a hostile work environment.
Other supervisors claimed there was a “witch hunt” against Halasz and people were purposefully seeking out employees with grievances against him.
In May and October 2015, the supervisors held a vote of no confidence in Halasz’s performance. Both votes failed in a 4-4 tie.
Lexington Mayor Frank Friedman said Halasz was forthcoming about his time in Halifax during his interviews for the city manager job. Friedman said council members were comfortable with his explanation and understood what a challenging time it was in the county.
“He was a professional through and through,” Friedman said.
Before his position in Halifax County, Halasz worked for 12 years in Staunton. He also worked for eight years as village manager in towns in Michigan and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Michigan State University.
Friedman said Halasz’s time in Staunton was especially impressive to the council because of his understanding of the region.
Lexington has been looking for a new city manager since May, when Noah Simon left for a job in Texas. The city hired the Berkley Group to assist them in recruitment and considered a pool of more than 35 candidates.
“I am excited about this opportunity to live in and serve the charming and unique city of Lexington.” Halasz said in the news release.