Meadville finds itself with new management as Gary Johnson has recently taken on the role of interim city manager following the departure of the former manager Andy Walker, who left to take a position with Allegheny College.
Interestingly, Johnson was once a reporter for the Tribune, but we turned the tables on him to ask him a few questions about his new endeavor.
Q: Tell our readers a little about your background and what positions you have held with the City of Meadville?
A: I started at the city in 2007 as the zoning administrator/city clerk. As time went on, I assumed the position of building code official and health officer. In 2015, I took the role of assistant city manager.
Q: What drew you to municipal work?
A: While it's always challenging, local government is the level most accountable to the public and has the potential for the most impact in making lives better. The variety of tasks, opportunities and people you meet and work with every day makes it a job that is never boring.
Q: What are your goals during this transition period as the interim city manager?
A: I hope to use my time at the city as a resource and do everything I can to support council, our department heads and the city team to continue providing the services residents, taxpayers and visitors have become accustomed to.
Q: What would you say is the biggest challenge for the city right now and how do you hope to address it?
A: It's the same challenge that the city has faced for decades: a structural budget imbalance where expenditures continuously outstrip revenues. While it's certainly not a thrilling subject of discussion, it's absolutely critical to the future of the city to ensure a sustainable source of revenue. My hope is that the city can work with leaders at the state level to help to address these long-standing and outdated municipal funding structures.
Q: What would you say are Meadville's greatest assets?
A: Though I've lived in the city for more than 20 years, I like to think I retain enough "outsiderness" to see the widespread willingness to try new things. Both from a city government standpoint and for the city as a whole, the single greatest attribute I see is a mindset that is open to new ideas to tackle the issues we collectively face.