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City Hall Restructuring Includes Second Asst. City Manager, Reassigned Ombudsman

Changes at City Hall approved by the Covington City Commission Tuesday night during a four-hour long meeting stretched beyond the fire department and code enforcement. Assistant City Manager Larisa Sims laid out the plans that aim to create a more efficient chain of command and a more business-friendly environment. The commission chamber was packed with people, many of whom voiced their strong support for City Ombudsman Suzanne Gettys who position is being eliminated, though Gettys will remain employed at City Hall in a role that will focus on business retention. "Suzanne has been great to work with," said Bennie Doggett, president of the Eastside Neighborhood Association. "That girl is dedicated. She won't even leave the city office until the nighttime. Something is wrong today."
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In her role as ombudsman, Gettys was directly responsible for helping neighborhood associations form and facilitated the dispersing of information about those groups. "You are taking away support for the neighborhood associations," said Vicki Dailey of West Latonia. "By holding our hand that woman helped us through things we never could have done. It just amazes me that those neighborhood associations we have mean nothing because I can tell you that nothing will get accomplished without that department. The common Covington people don't live in high rises. We live in Covington. We may only have five or six at meetings but when we rebuilt Barb Cook Park we're thirty strong."
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Jim Dailey also spoke in support Gettys. "We had trouble getting the grass cut at Barb Cook Park," he said. "After all that work the grass wasn't even cut. The neighborhood associations are the ones making the city look better right now. Telling me if I have a problem, I can't call Suzanne, that I have to call (Department of Public Improvements)? I never get a response."
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The Management Partners report that reviewed all City Hall departments recommended that the City outsource neighborhood outreach to the Center for Great Neighborhoods but Sims was not sure if that is the route the City will go.
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City will have two assistant City Managers
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City Solicitor Frank Warnock will be known as assistant city manager overseeing the legal department while Sims will be assistant city manager of the newly created development department. In addition to streamlining processes and aiming to make City Hall more efficient, one of the top priorities was to reduce the number of managers reporting directly to City Manager Larry Klein. That number is now reduced from thirteen to seven, as recommended by the Management Partners report. The development department will include a community services manager, a communication manager, the housing consortium, a programs and strategic projects manager, and a business development manager, all of whom will report to Sims. 
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Another goal will be to rely on civic partners such as the Catalytic Development Fund of Northern Kentucky, the Northern Kentucky Area Development District, the Covington Business Council/Latonia Business Association/Mainstrasse Village Association, as well as Tri-Ed, Vision 2015, and Southbank Partners. Through those efforts, Sims' plan indicates that the City will be better positioned to offer tax credits and start up funds for aspiring entrepreneurs. The City will continue to target niche markets in the arts, life sciences, and possible retail. 
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What is not known is what will happen to the Downtown promotional non-profit organization Renaissance Covington, which is housed at City Hall. Sims said that the issue is still being explored.
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City has lacked communication effort 
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One other issue that the new structure hopes to resolve is the lack of a streamlined effort to reach out to the media. No one at City Hall is currently tasked with being in charge of press releases and there is no official social media presence operated by the City of Covington. A communication manager will be hired to solve that issue. "We want to add a level of communication that we have never had before in the city," Sims said. "We feel that is something we need to work on."