Wrapping up a termPublished 8:03pm Tuesday, April 9, 2013
City manager shares plan in motion
When Josh Kay took the office of Washington city manager nearly two years ago, there were a few surprises. One was the surprising number of services offered to the residences, which was good. The other, the surprising number of people employed full time by the city — $10 million-worth — was bad.
At the end of May, Kay will head back to the low country of South Carolina from whence he came, but he’s leaving behind the foundation for a better Washington — with a long-term organizational plan that has economic development at its heart.
“Beaufort County has a great (economic development) team in place. What I’m excited about and really hating to leave, is that the county partners are getting together on a regular basis,” Kay said.
By county partners, Kay speaks of the faces of organizations like Washington Tourism and Development Authority, the Economic Development Commission, Beaufort County Community College, county representatives and many others — all of whom have a stake in the economic health and wellbeing of the area and who, at Kay’s behest, last year began meeting once a month to share ideas and work together to improve the community.
“That cooperation and communication is really opening a lot of doors,” Kay explained. “Economic development is more than just recruiting an industry and that’s what this group is searching and striving for.”
When he first hired on, Kay was asked to take a hard look at the city mechanism and make some calls about which direction to take it.
“I was asked to put together a strategy or plan that would move the organization into present day and set itself up for future success,” Kay said. “That $10 million a year payroll is a challenge — it’s not sustainable for this organization, thus the reason for the reorganization plan. You start reducing that through attrition, rather than massive layoffs,” he explained.
The reorganization plan has started the process of streamlining city departments and services, which Kay describes as making “leaps and bounds” toward the city’s future financial health.
But cutting costs hasn’t been Kay’s only priority. On its tails is the larger picture of economic development for downtown Washington.
“What we’ve got to do is put these pieces to together — it’s the events, it is a hotel, it’s the Turnage, it is people living (in the buildings) upstairs, it is green space, it is signage. We’ve got to continue to market downtown shopping and dining,” Kay said.
Kay is taking a position with Santee Cooper, a state-owned water and electric utility company in Kay’s native South Carolina, but before he leaves office in Washington, he plans to wrap up the 2013-2014 budget and several projects and grants he hopes to hand off, ready to go, to his successor. In the meantime, Kay is personally reaching out to potential candidates for the job.
“Washington is a great place, it really is,” Kay said. “It’s an ideal community to be a manager,” Kay said.