City manager outlines need for new staffers

Matthew Lane • May 6, 2007 at 11:21 AM

KINGSPORT - City Manager John Campbell has proposed adding 14 new positions to the ranks of the city, including new firefighters, police officers and a high-level administrative position.

Campbell proposed these new positions to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen during a recent budget work session. Kingsport has 681 employees, and the net gain after the proposal would be 12 or 13 positions, Campbell said.

The new positions are four police officers, six firefighters, a librarian, an internal auditor, a building inspector specializing in electrical work, and a deputy city manager.

If approved by the BMA later this month, the positions are slated to be filled at various times during the 2008 fiscal year and cost the city $476,100. If all of the positions remain, the cost to fund them for an entire year rises to $736,308 during the 2009 fiscal year. These figures include salary and benefits.

Campbell said the new police officers are needed to create a seventh zone within the city, to help with response times to outlying areas such as near Carolina Pottery and the old Sam's Club. The new firefighters would be the minimum amount needed for the new fire station expected to be built in the Rock Springs community, near a new elementary school Kingsport is building.

And as for the librarian, Campbell said the city has heard for a number of years the Kingsport Public Library has been understaffed, noting that the library has half the staff of the Johnson City Public Library.

The deputy city manager position being proposed would mark the second high-ranking position Campbell has created since being hired in October. In December, Campbell created an assistant to the city manager position and promoted then Community Relations Director Dave Light to it.

"In analyzing the organization, this appeared to be fairly clear before I took this job. ... The general understanding is the city did not have as much administrative capacity near the top as (the BMA) would like to see," Campbell said. "An observation from other people in the profession, like MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service), was that Kingsport was lacking some administrative capacity, in terms of dealing with day-to-day issues.

"This person would be there to work with other departments and helping them be as efficient and cost-effective as possible."

Campbell said he does not have a person in mind to fill the position but believes the ideal person would be someone who has been a city manager in a smaller city and now wants to be a city manager in a medium-sized city.

"The board said to me on the front end, think of your successor, who may be replacing you. Ideally instead of hiring people from outside every time we have a need for a city manager, this was seen as a way to bring someone up from within the system," Campbell said. "I would not be presumptuous to say that I would choose a successor. I think this individual who would fill this role would have an excellent chance to show what they can do over time."

Campbell served more than 24 years with Johnson City, including almost 17 years as city manager, before retiring in 2001.

During his tenure, several former assistants and employees of Campbell's went on to higher positions including Pete Peterson (city manager of Johnson City), Rusty Treadway (city manager of Elizabethton), Jim Crumley (city manager of Morristown) and Charlie Shahl (assistant city manager in Johnson City).

Campbell said he would like to think the position would be filled by the end of 2007.

"I don't think I ever suggested this many people at once (in Johnson City), and most of what you see here, in my mind, is catch-up," Campbell said. "It's an equitable service issue in my mind, regarding the police and fire, and it needed to be dealt with.

"Do you want to try and provide equitable service across the board? It seemed like this was overdue to do."

Campbell estimated during his tenure at Johnson City staff grew by 15 percent to 20 percent while the city's population grew by 25 percent. While city manager in Johnson City, Campbell said he had three assistants, one assistant to the city manager, and a customer service employee.

"I don't see the same thing happening here. I don't see the need for it," Campbell said. "I think this is significant, but you're not going to see this number of positions every year. I don't see a big demand for police officers in the next few years."

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