Columbiana manager goes without service director

COLUMBIANA – With half a year already behind him, City Manager Lance Willard doesn’t have any immediate plans to fill the service director position previously held by Jay Groner.

He recently said the new reorganization is working well and to this point, a service director isn’t needed. The City’s Charter gives him the right to appoint someone to the position.

Groner was appointed by former City Manager Keith Chamberlin in 1994, and both retired last year. As director, the street, park, cemetery, and utility department employees answered to him, and he answered to the city manager. The service director also serves as back-up to the city manager should the manager be unavailable.

City Council only recently approved creating a street superintendent position, and Willard said it offsets some of the service director duties.

He explained that in the past Groner was responsible for overseeing street paving and other projects, but that is now being managed by the superintendent.

The street department only ever had a foreman and that position was held by Rick Burt until his retirement in early January. Like Groner and Chamberlin, he opted to get out before changes to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System took effect Jan. 7.

Burt was replaced by water department employee Jesse Wilson, and last month Willard recommended the city create a street superintendent position, which Wilson was promoted to.

Willard said the position levels the playing field for all departments and allows for a more direct line of communication between himself and the departments.

The street department was the only one without a superintendent.

Willard said he is not opposed to filling the service director position eventually, but doesn’t plan on that happening in the near future.

“We are managing it a little differently than we have in the past. It seems to be really working well,” he said.

He went on to say that in addition to the superintendents, their employees are all “doing a great job.”

Finance Director Mike Harold, who served as interim City Manager prior to Willard’s hiring, is filling the role of his back-up.