A historic transition to a new form of government will be complete Monday morning when the first town manager shows up for his first day of work.
Matthew Campbell's job would be tough at the best of times — it's his first time as a manager (he was assistant to the city manager in Dunedin) and he has to help transition Town Council members who are used to running things. But Campbell is starting his job during a time of turmoil in the town, with council members hurling accusations at and arguing with each other, an election that could change the face of the council just a week away, and controversies over the Police Department dividing residents and council members alike.
Here are some of Campbell's thoughts as he prepares to take charge:
What did you do to prepare for your job interview and what have you done since to prepare for the job itself?
Campbell said he familiarized himself with the city by talking with people he knew who grew up there and with business people. He visited Town Hall and met with the town clerk and police chief. He talked with the mayor, searched the Internet, dug through town records and looked at the town's policies. "I listened more than anything."
Since getting the job, "I have been back down to the city. I have done some more research. I've put together some working notes for (goals for) the first couple of months (and) for the first year." He has talked with managers of other small Pinellas municipalities, such as Safety Harbor and Belleair, and attended the Pinellas County city managers association meeting. "I've learned to be realistic with my expectations but also not to bite off more than I can chew."
How do you plan to spend your first day at work?
"My goal is to get there, observe, see what goes on in the office setting." He has already scheduled a meeting Wednesday with department heads to discuss preparations for creating the 2014-15 budget.
There is an ongoing controversy over the performance of police Chief Mike Rossi and the Police Department. Any ideas on resolving the situation?
"I was made aware of that before I even interviewed. … (Rossi) has a tremendous reputation with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He is a very talented individual. … (I'm) impressed with him. … The Police Department has been a great resource in the community. I look forward to working with them." He said some of the issues can likely be solved by creating new policies that address some of the specific issues some people have with the department. Campbell is scheduling ride-alongs with the police and with the sheriff to learn about the crime and other public safety issues in the town and the adjacent unincorporated Lealman area.
What other issues do you see facing Kenneth City?
"I don't see issues other than the transitioning of the city from where it is now to where I'd like to see it in the next two to five years." Creating an identity for Kenneth City to improve its image is a primary goal. That includes working on beautification, signs for the town and the neighborhoods and looking for the hidden gems in the town and broadcasting those. "It's a community that has a lot of nice attributes. … I really want to draw attention to that. … I want to bring positive features to the light. … I want to make it a really, really cool place. … I'm passionate about my community. I want that to show."
Any question you wish someone would ask you?
"What makes Kenneth City unique? I think its people and the passion of its leadership to make a difference in the community."
Anything you want to say to residents?
"I have an open-door policy. I'm looking forward to meeting you and listening to your concerns and/or suggestions."
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes on Twitter.