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Flag City welcomes first City Manager Thomas Christie to town

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Christie meets and greets during his first week in City Hall.

Christie meets and greets during his first week in City Hall.

Millington is embarking on new territory with its government transforming over to a city manager form.

But for the man the Board of Aldermen hired earlier this month, he’s seen all in his 20 years of experience. On Jan. 7 the city of Millington offered the job of city manager to Thomas Christie, making him the first person to hold the position in the city’s history.

“I feel it’s going to be a challenge,” Christie said. “But I knew that coming in. I had been Talladega, Ala.’s first City Manager as well. This is not my first experience of being a first-time manager for a city.

“However, although I know it’s a challenge, I look forward to it,” he continued. “I think it’s something I’m well equipped to do being through the process before. I think I can make Millington’s transition smooth because of my past experience and also because of my maturity.”

Christie and his wife of more than 40 years, Betty, are making the transition to Millington after his previous stop in Salem, Ill. The couple met in their hometown of Shelbyville where Thomas began his career in government.

Christie has 17 and half years of service experience in Shelbyville, Collinsville, Ill., Wood River, Ill., Talladega and Salem. Now Millington is Christie’s sixth job as a city manager.

“I enjoy the challenge,” he said. “That might sound strange, but I relish the challenge. It’s a really all about providing the best form of democracy for a local city. I think this form of government which Millington has undertaken which is officially called council-form of government is the absolute best form of government.

“It is the largest and fastest growing form of government in the United States,” Christie added. “And that is for a reason. It’s more responsive to the people, more accountable to the people and it’s more effective on a day-to-day, year-by-year basis.”

Christie said his background, education and training makes him the ideal hire to be Millington’s first city manager.

“That’s because the person who is the chief administrative office in my case, city manager, in a council-form of government is a professional,” he said. “A person who has been trained to do this and does it for living. A person who has experience you just can’t get from an elected mayor.

“Doesn’t mean elected mayors are not good people or doesn’t mean they can’t be good administrators,” Christie continued. “It’s just you have greater potential and greater likely hood for consistent good administration because you’re using a professional versus a non-professional.”

Before becoming a city manager, Christie graduated from high school in Shelbyville. He traveled a few miles away to earn his undergraduate degree from Middle Tennessee State University. Then Christie earned his master’s degree from the University of Phoenix in Arizona.

After graduating, Christie embarked on a 20-year career in government. He said he is glad to be back in his home state.

“Tennessee, this is a non-union environment, which is an advantage,” he noted. “Illinois, the three cities I’ve been in were heavily unionized, which generally ran up the cost of government and slowed down the pace of government.

“I see a real advantage in Millington as I did in Shelbyville in that it’s a non-union environment,” Christie continued. “I see a real advantage in Millington because unlike a lot of cities it’s size, it already has a very good retail base for a city of 10,500. You’ve got some stores most cities would give their life-blood to have. You’ve already got that which means you can build on that.”

Christie said building on the established foundation in Flag City will be made easier with the recent opening of Veterans Parkway.

“Another advantage I see Millington having is industrial property,” he said. “I can tell you from experience most cities have a fraction of the land for industry that Millington has available. That’s the biggest challenge when trying to get industry – where do you put them. And they’ve already got it. I see the construction of Veterans Parkway to be a real positive. It runs throughout the entire city.”

The final advantages Christie saw in his first week on the job for Millington was the people and workforce in the city.

“One of the things my wife and I try always try to evaluate when we go to a new city, how friendly is the population,” he said. “We’ve found Millington’s population to be very friendly. I was very glad to see this was a diverse group. The workforce in Millington is very diverse both in a sexual and racial basis. I view that as a real positive.

“I told the police chief (Rita Stanback) the other day, ‘It’s going to be my pleasure for the first time in my career, a female, black police chief,’” Christie added. “That says a lot about Millington. When I look at the make up of my departments, I see good diversity both gender as well as racial. I can tell you I had to go into cities and create diversity. It’s unnecessary here. That says a lot of real positives about Millington. That’s the norm here.”

Christie said as the new man in town, he wants to add positive things to the norm of Millington.

“My goals are the same in Millington as it is in any city I manage, that is to deliver the best quality of service that the residents of Millington want, need and receive as a good value,” he concluded. “At the end of the day I want the Millington citizens to say, ‘Gosh, he’s made the services we were getting better. He’s given them to us at a better value. And in the process, he’s given us a better quality of life.’ If I can do that I will be happy.”

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