The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

June 15, 2014

Familiar situation | Johnstown, again, searching for city manager

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown finds itself in an all-too-familiar situation.

Once again, the city is searching for someone to fill a top administration spot.

Kristen Denne, Johnstown’s city manager since 2010, submitted her resignation Wednesday evening.

Denne’s last day on the job will be Friday. She is leaving to, as she put it, “pursue another professional opportunity.”

So the search begins in earnest for another top manager. In the interim, Carlos Gunby, Johnstown’s finance director, was named acting city manager.

“For the good of the city, I’m willing to step in and fill that void,” Gunby said at Wednesday’s council meeting.

It was just last month that we went to bat for Denne after hearing rumors that she was on her way out and that a hand-picked successor was waiting in the wings.

Sure, she had her faults. But who doesn’t?

She had a reputation for being hard to reach, which sometimes dismayed us.

She also was known to have a rough disposition. However, as far as we know, the job description does not call for a milquetoast.

But she also had a reputation for getting the job done. She cut costs when necessary and she fully understood Act 47, the program for distressed municipalities.

One of her accomplishments, given everything that she has faced, is being the longest-tenured city manager in Johnstown’s two decades since it opted for its current council/

manager form of government. Her predecessor, Curt Davis, held the post for almost four years.

Other city managers before her, and there have been a few, have not stayed around for very long.

Which makes it clear to us that there is something amiss in city politics.

Former City Manager Ken Gearhart said in a 1997 interview that, “Here, it’s a brand of politics I have never been exposed to before.”

And another ex-top administrator, Karl Kilduff, said at his final council meeting in 2001 that, “The community doesn’t believe in a better hope for Johnstown.”

When the only two things Johnstowners can hang their hat on is that their top administrator doesn’t stay long and their fair city remains financially distressed, that’s sad.

Now, along with dealing with irate property owners upset about the sewer project, City Council must undertake the search for Denne’s replacement.

As we said earlier, the search must be nationwide and it should be done by a reputable firm that has successfully matched best applicant to the corresponding vacancy.

Johnstown desperately needs someone who has a vast knowledge of working within the confines of a distressed city. The perfect match would be the person who has successfully guided a municipality out of Act 47.

And we reiterate, that person probably will not be from Johnstown.

To Denne, we say thanks for a job well done. To council, we say godspeed on finding her replacement.

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