John Campbell speaks in this Times-News file photo.
KINGSPORT — After seven years as the Model City’s chief executive officer, City Manager John Campbell has announced his retirement effective July 2014.
Campbell made the announcement at the end of a Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Tuesday night.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve with you and six previous board members to move Kingsport forward,” Campbell said. “It has been very rewarding and exciting to work with over 800 city employees on a daily basis striving to provide Kingsport citizens and businesses the best services possible at the lowest possible costs.”
That last part is trademark Campbell and a comment he routinely makes during the city’s annual budget process. To ensure the long-term success of the city and to maintain an outstanding professional staff, Campbell said it is important for the BMA to find the best possible candidate for city manager.
“An effective process to do this will typically take five to six months, thus my announcement at this time,” Campbell said, joking that he had recently received a Medicare notice in the mail.
Campbell, who turns 65 in April, said he will become a grandfather for the first time in March, something that also played a role in his decision to retire next year.
“My wife retired in the spring and she likes to travel, but we haven’t been able to travel enough,” Campbell said.
Campbell, a Dobyns-Bennett High School and University of Tennessee graduate, has spent 33 years in city government positions.
Campbell began his career in Johnson City, working there for 24 years — 17 as the city manager. Afterward, he spent a couple of years in the private sector doing consulting work for local governments, then held the top spot at NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership for about a year before coming to Kingsport in October 2006.
During his tenure in Kingsport, the city has completed a number of major projects, from the establishment of the Academic Village, the construction of the Kingsport Aquatic Center and John Adams Elementary School, the redevelopment of the old Quebecor property and an expansion of the Kingsport Farmers Market.
Kingsport has also grown in both population and size under Campbell’s leadership, mostly due to a fairly aggressive annexation policy focusing on the Rock Springs and Colonial Heights communities.
“This city has prospered and grown,” said Mayor Dennis Phillips. “I don’t think we could have possibly have had a city manager that led this city the way you have.”
Recently, Phillips brought up a suggestion about the BMA having the final say on the termination of the city attorney, city recorder and police chief. Phillips called the change a “check and balance” on future city managers, but the suggestion caused some uneasiness among some on the BMA.
Campbell said this issue played no role in his decision to retire, that his retirement is something he has been thinking about for more than a year.
“When I signed on (as city manager), I envisioned retiring about a year ago, but I never knew the recession would be felt this long,” Campbell said. “I felt like I needed to stay until the city got in a better position, and I feel like we’re really coming back now.”
Campbell concluded his announcement by saying he plans to work hard over the next six months to move the strategic planning process forward and to complete next year’s budget and capital improvement plan.