GREENSBORO — When former City Manager David Parrish announced last spring that he would be leaving his job, he also left a mystery about what he would be doing next.
But for Parrish, there was no mystery at all: He wanted to start a new career where he could find a little more balance for himself and his growing family, a life where he wasn’t worried about the operations of the state’s third-largest city 24 hours a day.
Parrish, who is now a partner in New Page Capital, has moved from managing more than 3,000 people as the top decision-maker to helping manage three small companies with fewer than 200 employees.
And he doesn’t miss the grind of public service.
He described his former job as a “Class 5 rapid, all the time. You’re always kind of flowing really fast down a river. You can step out on the bank every once in a while. But you know when your vacation’s over or your weekend’s over ... you jump back into that river.”
Now, he is able to see the city in a new way for the first time since he began his career in city government nearly two decades ago.
“Within a month of driving around the city, it felt really different,” he said.
As a recreational runner, Parrish said, “it just felt really different to be able to run past a manhole cover or a busted out streetlight, you know, or even a firetruck that was responding to a call and not have to go, OK, where are they going? What’s going on? Yeah, you know, or a stop sign that was missing or something simple like that.”
City manager is “a 24/7 lifestyle,” he said. “Even though you’re not working you always had to be prepared for any moment. You’re kind of always on call.”
Now, working with New Page, Parrish has narrowed his scope, from running a massive water system for hundreds of thousands of customers to helping with three companies, an HVAC company, a steel company and a “coatings” company that does things like creating special finishes for automotive parts.
“It’s been different,” he said. “It’s been a good opportunity for my family and I to kind of reengage and hopefully I’ve been very present with them too.”
During his three years as city manager, Parrish had to confront a major tornado in east Greensboro, police challenges and a pandemic that upended every facet of city operations, where garbage pickup and water service had to go on, regardless of the challenges to workers.
But it’s the ongoing challenge of working every year on a $600-plus million budget that Parrish can’t forget.
“You know that that demand for on-time trash pickup and water delivery and fire protection, that’s not going away. It’s very difficult to keep trying to think of what else we’re going to add to it. That was always a challenge for me is how do we fund the basic level but keep up with the demand for new things too,” he said.
Now, it’s the demands of customers and his company’s workers that Parrish worries about. And he feels up to the challenge.
He won his new position through ongoing contacts with his two new partners, Parrish said. And he has an outsized influence in his company, far away from the days of 3,000 employees, 500,000 residents and nine demanding City Council members.
His company is managed by Parrish and two others: Adam Duggins, managing partner and Rick Ramsey, also managing partner. Parrish’s title is operating partner.
“I want to still be connected and involved,” Parrish said. “I’m going to start working and volunteering with Urban Ministries. I’m involved with my church and with youth athletics again, now that I have some time”
“It sounds hokey, but it’s important to me, it’s important to my wife, it’s important to Rick and Adam. It’s important to their families, too. We’ve chosen to raise our families here,” said the Greensboro native.
Parrish knows he’s no expert in construction or HVAC or the coatings business.
But, then, he wasn’t an expert in police operations either when he was city manager.
He likes to learn, though.
“In the same day you could have a sewer main spill and also deal with a fire or a road issue. So having to be able to pivot and be flexible enough to adapt and have these same conversations, I think, it’s a skill,” Parrish said. “It’s fun, you know, to kind of keep it different, keep it fresh.”
Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.