New city manager picked

BY BILL BROWN

But, is he “one of us?”

That was an oft-heard concern when Takoma Park started looking for a new city manager.

The movement to find a like-minded candidate was strong last fall and winter. Requiring the city manager to live in the city, said some residents and city council members, would give him or her a residents-eye view of local issues.

They tried to put a residency requirement in the city charter. Though controversial, it came close to becoming law, losing by only one vote in the final tally.

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Brian Kenner, the city council’s choice for city manager speaks at the May 13th council meeting.

Brian Kenner, the new city manager, is “considering” moving to the city, said Mayor Bruce Williams. Currently, Kenner and his wife currently live close-by, near Meridian Park in northwest DC, about 4.5 miles from the city.

Appearing briefly before the city council May 13 Kenner said Takoma Park’s diversity had attracted him to the city. Looking at the city, he said, “I see room for growth.”

Long-standing problems

Mayor Williams said Kenner “impressed us all” as someone who “could get some things done.” Williams hopes Kenner can solve some long standing problems and issues: Takoma Junction development, Metro development, the Washington Adventist Hospital, the Purple Line, and New Hampshire Avenue development.

Kenner was one of about 70 candidates. A citizen committee thinned the 70 applicants down to 10 semi-finalists. The city council worked with the committee to narrow the list to 5.

Mayor Bruce Williams stands by the empty city manager's office (closed door) next to his (open door).

Mayor Bruce Williams stands by the empty city manager’s office (closed door) next to his (open door).

The council made the final choice. The preference for Kenner was “near-unanimous,” said the mayor. The citizen search committee “was impressed as well,” he said.

One of the finalists was acting city manager Suzanne Ludlow. The mayor praised her work running the city government since last September. She expertly crafted next year’s city budget and helped keep order through a number of council controversies. She will stay on in her previous position as Deputy City Manager.

Ocean City start

Brian Kenner will take office officially June 23, though his first day IN his office will be June 27. He’ll be in Ocean City until then.

Ocean City hosts the Maryland Municipal League’s annual convention that week. Every top city and town official in the state will attend. State and federal politicians are likely to show up, too. Kenner will be networking with other attendees, spending time with Takoma Park councilmembers and staff, and probably not having much opportunity to bask on the beach or buy salt-water taffy.

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The city manager’s office waits for furniture.

Working for DC

Kenner now works for the DC city government. He is the chief operating officer for the deputy mayor’s Office of Planning and Economic Development.

He manages more than 60 employees with an operating budget of $42 million a year. Takoma Park has 150 employees and a budget of $25 million.

He worked on redevelopment plans for both Walter Reed Army Medical Center and St Elizabeth’s Hospital east campus. His experience lies in real-estate, economic development, and financial analysis.

His previous jobs were with Fannie Mae, Jones Lang LaSalle (specializing in public-private initiatives); as a Manager of the Government Real Estate Advisory Services Consulting Practice at Ernst & Young; and, as a Presidential Management Fellow for the federal government.

Nameless nameplate. The city manager's office.

Nameless nameplate. The city manager’s office.

Public policy and biology

Kenner earned a masters degree in Public Policy at Harvard University. His BA in Biology is from the University of Iowa, according to his Linkedin page. Mayor Williams says Kenner is an Iowa native.

Kenner is quoted in the city’s press release, “My background in city government and the private sector has taught me how important it is to ensure a high quality of living for residents, help businesses thrive, and prepare for a bright future.”

The mayor said a former city manager Alvin Nichols suggested Kenner apply for the position.  Nichols had the position in the late 70’s.

City seal.

City seal.

About the Author

Bill Brown
Bill Brown moved to Takoma Park in 1982. He has been involved in journalism in one way or another since he co-published an underground high-school newspaper in the late 1960s.