By MIKE FAHER
JOHNSTOWN — Kristen Denne is well aware of Johnstown’s persistent, deep-rooted financial problems.
But the city’s next manager expects to confront those issues head-on when she takes Johnstown’s top administrative job, likely early next month.
“I see a lot of potential there,” Denne said.
City Council members on Monday announced the hiring of Denne, the 31-year-old manager of Ambridge Borough in Beaver County. She will replace former City Manager Curt Davis, who resigned Sept. 30.
“The contract is agreed upon, and it’s in the process of being executed,” Councilwoman Ann Wilson said after council held a brief executive session Monday evening.
Wilson said officials are hoping Denne can start work in the second week of February.
The hiring ends a months-long search that whittled a field of approximately 30 candidates down to two. Denne was one of the finalists; the name of the other candidate has not been disclosed.
Wilson said Denne is “well-educated and energetic” and will bring the necessary administrative skills to City Hall.
“We have a huge opportunity for someone who’s building their career in city and municipal government,” Wilson said.
“She’s up for the challenges that the city of Johnstown faces.”
The contract calls for a starting salary of $72,500 with opportunities for raises within the first 12 months. It is a two-year deal with the possibility of a one-year extension.
Denne started work in Ambridge in 2005. She previously had held the titles of assistant manager and manager in Dormont Borough, Allegheny County.
Denne grew up in the Pittsburgh area, but she has a local tie: She graduated in 2000 from Pitt-Johnstown. She also holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh.
Ambridge had 7,769 residents in the 2000 census. The latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates put its population at just over 7,000.
So Denne will be stepping into a larger municipality, with Johnstown’s population now estimated at 21,641. But she said she expects to hit the ground running, having been encouraged by the Johnstown leaders she already has talked with.
“I see that there are people in the city who want to make it better and want to get involved,” Denne said.