With Danville taking the initial steps in the search for a permanent city manager and hiring a second interim city manager this week, someone who knows the job well was watching closely from the wings.
"As a citizen I am very keen on what actions are going to be taken by the City Commission to bring a new city manager on board," former city manager Paul Stansbury said in a previous interview.
‘Citizen’ Stansbury was dismissed amidst some controversy in May and reached a settlement agreement with the city in June. After keeping a decidedly low profile during the period of time after his dismissal, he has started attending many of the meetings he was a part of since 2007.
Stansbury declined to talk about the effort to remove him, but was willing to discuss his time in the job, the challenges of being the city's top employee and what he sees ahead for whoever is his replacement.
Looking back on over three years in the job, Stansbury said he is mostly satisfied with the work he and city staff, a group he was quick to laud for their knowledge and professionalism, were able to accomplish.
While he said he has no major regrets about how he preformed his duties, Stansbury does lament that he was not able to see the multimillion dollar water plant expansion project finished.
"I really would have liked to see that through to the end," Stansbury said. "The construction would have been finished sometime in 2014 and I would have reached an appropriate retirement age. I was looking forward to bringing what is really a major capital project for the city through to completion."
The timeline for starting on the water system improvement has been the source of disagreement between Stansbury and some current commissioners, who cited a lax approach to making progress on the project in the resolution for dismissal.
Stansbury, though, pointed to what he said was the necessary first step to determining the needs of water customers, a water model study the city undertook soon after he was hired. He also noted the negotiations he helped start with Kentucky Utilities in 2007 to secure water rights for the next 40 years, an agreement that was finalized last November.
Stansbury said he was also pleased with the outcome of the Phylben Village project, a collaboration between Danville, Junction City and both Boyle and Lincoln Counties, which brought sanitary sewer service to a previously unserved neighborhood, as well as the results of the solid waste and recycling contract negotiations.
In discussing the qualities of the person who will handle the next set of issues facing the city, Stansbury said it is first important that candidates understand the singular characteristics of Kentucky's version of the city manager form of the position as opposed to the way other states operate.
The job is not technically subject to the swings of electoral politics, but Stansbury said the city manager has to try to stay above the fray. While it my sound simple enough, he noted the degree to which city managers are associated with decisions made by majorities on the commission.
The relatively short terms of his predecessors and his own firing, as well as efforts by some in the community to change to a mayor-council government, have not convinced Stansbury the city manager form is flawed. Some of the statutes may be due for a review, though.
"Consideration could be given to having more of a merit based system," Stansbury said. "I don't think it would be appropriate for the evaluation and selection of the city manager to be taken out the hands of the commission. I do think there is a lot of confusion about how to proceed when the commission decides the city manager should go. That could use some clarification."
Stansbury said the next city manager should also have a firm grasp on city finances and, perhaps most important, an understanding of the harsh realities of diminishing revenue in an economy that continues to languish. He said whoever gets the job will have to continue trying to control spending and explore available revenue sources, including grants.
“The economy has seriously impacted the resources the city has available, and that will probably be true for a while,” Stansbury said. “In general, when you look back at the last few years, city staff took great pains to provide fund balances to ensure the city could continue providing services.”
With his own financial agreement with the city finalized, Stansbury has been able to focus on other professional opportunities as well as his own well-being. What has been a trying time for Stansbury professionally also included a health scare.
Stansbury, 61, was diagnosed with liver disease about a year ago, a condition that was harder to handle when combined with the stress of the last eight months. He has lost about 50 pounds over several months and said he has been able to manage the disease to this point.
“The strain of the last few months was pretty substantial,” Stansbury said. “With that being over, I have really been able to put more focus on my health.”
He has been looking at other career possibilities, but Stansbury said he and his wife Joan, whose community work includes programs like “Lunch with the Arts,” are planning to stay in Danville for the foreseeable future.
“I don't second guess coming to Danville at all,” Stansbury. “We like the area, it is a wonderful community and we have made so many friends. We have really been overwhelmed by the expressions of support we have gotten and the tremendous number of people who have encouraged us to stay.”
Stansbury said he will continue to pay attention to what's happening at city hall. While he has not spoken publicly about any issues he's concerned about, he said he wouldn't rule out being more vocal in the future if the situation calls for it.
Despite the way his own experience ended, Stansbury said he also wouldn't discourage anyone from taking over his old job, in part because as a resident he wants to see the best candidate chosen to lead the city forward. He said his advice to someone looking at the job would be relatively simple.
"Do your research," Stansbury said. "It can be a rewarding profession and its certainly needed. I would say to any candidate it is wise to do a thorough examination and make your own determination."