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Smith Officially Named Covington City Manager

Ken Smith is no longer interim city manager at the City of Covington.

The city commission on Tuesday night voted 4-0 with one "present, not voting" to name him the 34th city manager officially.

Smith had been serving as interim city manager since the resignation of David Johnston on June 8, while also serving as the city's neighborhood services director.

Commissioner Ron Washington applauded Smith's hiring, noting that Smith and two other volunteers sprung into action over the weekend to help clean up a shelter in Randolph Park ahead of an event.

“Ken will be excellent,” Washington said. “I’m pleased with his communication with the commission, and I’m pleased with the morale of the staff under his interim watch.”

Smith said he was honored and humbled by the commission’s confidence.

“I never aspired to this position, but I welcome the challenge,” he said. “I will do my absolute best to continue the city’s momentum, and I will always do what I believe is in the best interest of our citizens.”

Smith, who lives in Covington, came to City Hall in April 2018 as neighborhood services director.

Under a reorganization, the department was created to pull together other departments, namely parks & recreation, solid waste and recycling, code enforcement, federal grants/housing assistance, and the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Previously, Smith served for 11 years as executive director of Price Hill Will, a non-profit community development corporation in Cincinnati. Before that, he was chief operations officer of Brighton Properties Inc. and had worked at the Children’s Law Center of Northern Kentucky. He has been active as a volunteer or board member with numerous regional organizations.

Smith said Covington’s momentum and upward trajectory have remained steady despite the pandemic.

“We didn’t have the luxury of slowing down during this transition period,” he said. “Our employees, especially the senior leadership, my department leaders, and our administrative staff, were there to offer assistance and encouragement with whatever I needed. We are lucky to have these folks, and I look forward to continuing to work with them every day to advance our goals.”

Washington told an anecdote to demonstrate Smith’s commitment to Covington and its staff: An organization had arranged to use Randolph Park for an event one weekend, but when its members arrived, they found previous users had left the shelter house full of trash.

Washington called Smith to see if he could get hold of some city employees on the weekend to take care of the problem. But Washington was no sooner on the phone reporting back to the organization when they told him, “oh, the city is here working on it.”

In that case, “the city” turned out to be Smith and a couple of people.

“To me, that’s what leadership is about,” Washington said.

Commissioner Michelle Williams offered herself as "present, not voting", an abstention of sorts. Though she said that Smith "is doing a great job here at the City of Covington," Williams said that she wished that the hiring process had been different.

Mayor Joe Meyer welcomed Smith to the new role.

"I am excited by our proven ability to provide meaningful leadership to our city community and we are really excited to have you in the position," the mayor said.

In other comments, Williams asked about why City Hall has moved to mandate masks as a mitigation effort against COVID-19 as the virus surges in the local community and around the state.

"We put masks back out at the elevators," Smith said, adding that there were recent meetings about the issue. "There should be a memo coming out to the staff addressing some interim steps and we are looking at larger possibilities on how to address the current surge."

-Staff report

Photo: Ken Smith with Gov. Andy Beshear at Old Town Cafe in Covington (provided)