The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

May 18, 2014

Council right to keep Denne

City manager not always popular, but productive

JOHNSTOWN — To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of Kristen Denne’s professional death in

Johnstown were exaggerations.

Denne, it seems, will continue as city manager for the foreseeable future.

The way we see it, that’s good news for Johnstown.

Denne certainly has her detractors, so it wasn’t altogether surprising when there were grumblings around town last week that she was on her way out. We heard them, as well as the name of the person who was rumored to be her replacement, and we were quite worried about the rumors.

We’ve taken Denne to task before for her handling of Right-to-Know requests. And we know that she and the members of City Council are not popular figures because of the controversy surrounding Johnstown’s pressure-test requirement in the sewer upgrade.

She also has a reputation for being hard to reach and having a rough disposition.

Does she need to make sure her office responds in a timely manner to Right-to-Know requests? Definitely.

Should the city reconsider how it is handling the pressure testing? Undoubtedly.

Would we like her to be more accessible – to the media and the public? Certainly.

Should City Council pick up the option on her contract, which runs out at the end of the year? Absolutely.

The faults mentioned pale in comparison to what Denne has done for the city. She has helped trim nearly $7 million of the city’s debt. While that might not be something that residents are seeing on a day-to-day basis, it will eventually make a huge difference for them.

Denne knows and understands what the city, which has been in Pennsylvania’s Financial Recovery Act 47 program for distressed municipalities for more than two decades, needs as it works toward its recovery.

We certainly are not afraid of having a strong woman in very important leadership position in our fair city.

Frankly, one of her perceived faults is probably an asset for her position: She’s tough. She won’t back down from a fight – as evidenced by her response to council’s attempt to run her out of town.

That’s a quality that her successor, if and when she does leave Johnstown, needs to possess as well. While we were upset by the rumors that Denne’s contract would not be renewed when it runs out – which no longer may be the case – we were angered by word that a hand-picked successor was already in line for the job.

When it comes time to find a new city manager – and it will happen eventually – we urge council members to search far and wide for a replacement. It should be a nationwide search, done by a reputable firm, to find the best person for the job. It should be someone with experience working for a distressed city and someone that can handle the rigors of the job and not cave to the pressures that come with it. Odds are, that person won’t be from Johnstown.

Luckily, Johnstown already has the best person to do the job. Her name is Kristen Denne.

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