Leadership shakedown in store for Cincinnati's top city departments

CINCINNATI -- A leadership shakedown is in store for several top Cincinnati city departments when incoming city manager Harry Black steps on board in September.

Among Black’s first tasks will be selecting permanent directors for a half dozen city departments that have been headed by interim leaders for months - and in some cases much longer.

“Based on the fact that some of these individuals have been in an interim capacity for quite some time, it will be important for me to move swiftly,” said Black, who was approved unanimously last week by council as the city’s 15th city manager. He’ll begin his new role Sept. 8.

Shoring up key city administration roles in the short run is critical ground work for big changes planned in the way the city is run longer term, says Black.

“A lot of what we need to do will require collaboration and integration,” Black said. “I’m looking for people with ideas and energy who want to be innovators. Bottom line, I’m looking for compatibility with me.”

The departments in question are among of the city’s most essential operations, including budget, public services, law, and trade and development.

“They’re all so critical,” said Black.

Collectively, the departments account for 547 workers and nearly $54 million in city spending.

A glance of each departments’ key stats

Public services

Interim director: Gerald Checco
Annual budget:  $38.6 million
Employees: 395
Previous director: Michael Robinson through April 20.


Trade & Development

Interim director: Jeff McElravy
Annual budget: $6.28 million
Employees: 68
Previous director: Odis Jones through July, 2013.
 

Law department

Interim director: Terry Nester
Annual budget: $6.09 million
Employees: 61
Previous director: John Curp through January 2014
 

Budget
Interim director: Peggy Sandman
Budget: $1.27 million
Employees: 11
Previous director: Les Eriksen
 

Citizen Complaint & Internal Audit
Interim director: Pamela King
Budget: $845,070
Employees: 8
Previous director: Kenneth Glenn, through July 1.
 

Public Information Officer
Interim director: Rocky Merz
Annual budget: $548,750
Employees: 4
Previous director: Meg Olberding through May 2014

Across many of the departments, leadership shakeups began following former city manager Milton Dohoney’s departure late last year. In some instances, such as with former trade and development director Michael Cervay and former city solicitor John Curp, the department heads have moved into other leadership roles within the city.

“I appreciate the position that all of them are in,” said Black. “Being in an interim status is not the most comfortable role to be in, but obviously they’ve been getting the work done.”

Among Black’s  first moves will be to meet with the interim directors “to get to know each of them and get a good sense of where their departments are right now,” he said, adding that he plans to also meet with employees “to see what things they are happy with.”

Though he won’t need council's approval on his picks, he said he’ll be seeking feedback from members and the mayor.

“Our top priority is to instill an ethos of customer service in all that we do,” said Mayor John Cranley. “I trust Harry will make decisions about leadership with that in mind.”

How extensive the searches will be will vary from department to department, Black said.

At least one top job  – the city’s budget director - may require a national search, he noted. The interim leader their Peggy Sandman is in line for another role within the city, though Black didn’t share details on her next step.

Sandman didn’t return a call seeking comment.

“There will be instances where the incumbent candidate will be who stands out,” said Black. “Whatever process I undertake will be very transparent and very fair.”

Lining up his top brass will also be crucial for another priority Black has said he wants to tackle in the short run: Creating a new city office dubbed Performance and Data Analytics that will “ track, monitor and measure everything” city departments and employees do.

“We’re going to be asking the workforce to do more, to do things in a different way,” Black said. “Everything we do will be results-oriented, outcome oriented….Therefore, performance is critical.”

 

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