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Interim manager asks board to post opening for permanent position

By Bill Short

Chesney addresses the board when he was named interim city manager earlier this summer.

Chesney addresses the board when he was named interim city manager earlier this summer.

Interim City Manager Mike Chesney asked the Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen last week to post the opening for the permanent position sometime next month.
He made the request at the conclusion of his first report to the board during its Sept. 3 regular monthly meeting.
Chesney was hired at an Aug. 12 special board meeting. That action came one week after the board voted to terminate the employment of Thomas Christie, who had served for seven months as the city’s first professional manager.
Three years ago, the owners of the Millington Telephone Co. hired Chesney to “see them through” the process of deciding whether to keep the company, take it to the next level or “exit the business.” They sold the company to new owner Ritter Communications.
On Aug. 12, Chesney advised the board not to “jump right into” advertising on the Web site for a new city manager. He said any potential applicants would wonder why there is such a “rapid change” and whether they really want to move their family here.
But at the Sept. 3 meeting, Chesney told the board that he had a “long talk” with his wife during the previous weekend. She reminded him that he has “been gone for almost three years now” in Millington.
“She’s a very patient lady,” he noted. “But she’s basically saying, ‘OK, how long is this going to be? I know you’re loving it, but you need to come home at some point.’ And I need to listen to that.”
Asking the board members to examine the current job description for the city manager, Chesney said they can “tweak” it to ensure that everyone is “happy” with it.
“Then, let’s go ahead and try to post it sometime in October,” he requested. “Sometime after the first of the year, maybe by February, we can have a good candidate in here to be your new city manager.”
Declaring that he is “in no rush,” Chesney said he loves being in Millington and wants to do a “quality job.” But he acknowledged that he also knows what East Tennessee has for him.
During his report, Chesney expressed appreciation for the “amazing support” and encouragement he has received. He said he is “very busy” this month visiting all the city’s “properties,” meeting all of its employees and as many of its “customers” as possible.
Because both time and money is “limited,” Chesney said the board members need to keep talking about better management of the city’s resources.
“We’ve got to manage the resources as creatively as possible,” he acknowledged. “And we’ve got to think outside the box in everything we do.”
Chesney said an accounting term he has always lived by is called “revenue assurance.” It involves ensuring that all revenues generated are being fairly billed, collected and “corralled,” so that nothing “falls through the cracks.” So, he has begun a revenue-assurance process for the city.
He said he will apply the same principle to the codes enforcement process by examining the city’s ordinances and codes to determine how to more effectively balance the needs of its residents and business customers.
While the city needs to be very “residential- and business-friendly,” Chesney said it must also abide by and enforce its codes.
“Where that line is drawn is always a gray area,” he acknowledged. “But in that gray area is common-sense business. I expect every customer to be talked to and common sense to be used.”
Noting that The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service is a state-funded organization that helps cities improve themselves, Chesney said he will ask MTAS representatives to examine how each of Millington’s city departments does business. That will serve to educate him regarding better ways to manage the municipal government.
“But it also helps us network others in the state that are doing things well,” he concluded. “We want to always do things well and be ahead of the curve and not behind it.”

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