New City Manager Named in Covington
Nearly five months after forcing out former City Manager Larry Klein, the City of Covington's mayor, along with the city commission, voted to hire his replacement.
David Johnston, most recently city manager in Maple Valley, Washington, was selected by a 4-0 vote (Commissioner Jordan Huizenga was not present).
In addition to Maple Valley, Johnson's experience includes turns as village administrator in Rantoul and Coal City, Illinois, and town manager in Westfield, Indiana. He has also served as administrative director for Indiana Health Centers, Inc. and was an adjunct faculty member at Purdue University.
In May 2016, he resigned in Maple Valley, a city of just over 22,000 people, citing different visions for the community following the election of a new city council. In December, he was announced as the new city manager in Claremont, New Hampshire, but failed to reach an agreement on a contract, according to a report in Valley News.
In Covington, he will be paid $140,000 per year and will start no later than August 21.
Johnston was the city's second choice. Bryan Long, former city manager of Lawton, Oklahoma, declined the position when offered last week.
Mayor Joe Meyer, after the city commission met in closed, executive session for more than half an hour to discuss Johnston's hiring, said that he was excited about having a new manager. He called it "one of the most open and substantive and apolitical city manager searches in the city's recent history."
Johnston was selected from 37 applicants in a process led by Arizona-based Municipal Solutions, and was announced previously as one of four finalists. He replaces interim city manager Loren Wolff, a local bankruptcy attorney, who took over as city manager when Klein resigned in February.
"I think we got somebody that staff says they want to work with and the community wants to work with," Meyer said, referencing meetings that the four finalists had with staff members and some Covington residents.
In a news release, distributed after Tuesday night's city commission meeting, Johnston's work in developing two new shopping centers in Maple Valley was highlighted, along with his role in the redevelopment of an Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois. He launched Maple Valley's priority-based budgeting process and implemented Westfield, Indiana's first infrastructure master plan.
Johnston holds a master's degree in public affairs from Indiana University's School of Public & Environmental Affairs, a bachelor of arts degree in American studies from the University of Notre Dame, and a certificate in economic development from the University of Oklahoma's Economic Development Institute.
“We were very impressed not only with Johnston’s level of professionalism and extensive background, but his positive approach to problem solving. He will be a great asset to Covington, bringing a fresh perspective to the table,” said interim city manager Wolff, who was paid $11,000 per month to fill the role temporarily.
Municipal Solutions CEO & principal David Evertsen, in a statement, spoke highly of Johnston as well.
“When conducting national searches, we actively recruit candidates who meet three important criteria: the right qualifications, a good fit, and a solid commitment to the community they are seeking to work and live. Mr. Johnston possesses all three,” Eversten said.
-Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photo: David Johnston (via LinkedIn) and Covington City Hall (RCN file)