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Covington’s new neighborhood services director to bring cohesion

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COVINGTON, Ky. – A recently hired member of the City of Covington’s management team arrived today to oversee a new department that will pull together programs that help citizens in neighborhoods create better surroundings for themselves.

Ken Smith, the City’s new neighborhood services director, will oversee a variety of related services and functions, namely code enforcement; housing and federal programs (previously called community development); parks and recreation; and solid waste services, which include garbage collection and recycling.

Previously those functions fell within the bailiwick of several different departments in a disjointed arrangement that discouraged collaboration.

“Ken in this position will focus on coordinating the many programs and services directed toward neighborhoods,” Covington City Manager David Johnston said. “This will eliminate silos, create better communication and collaboration and ultimately improve how the City interacts with residents. It’s a much more effective use of tax dollars.” 

Smith was hired by a 5-0 vote of the Covington City Commission on March 27 on Johnston’s recommendation.

For the last 11 years Smith has served as executive director of Price Hill Will, a non-profit community development corporation in Cincinnati. Before that, he was chief operations officer of Brighton Properties Inc. He’s also worked at the Children’s Law Center of Northern Kentucky through a Vista/Americorps position and was assigned to the Kenton County Attorney’s Office. He has been active as a volunteer or board member with numerous regional organizations.

Smith said he was eager to get started and thought his background gave him a strong foundation for the job.

“This is a great opportunity to work for the city where I live,” he said. “I’ve been in the community development field for the past 15 years, partnering with local government on almost a daily basis.”

Smith also said the new department structure should pay off.

“I’m familiar with the challenges of an urban setting and hope that by consolidating neighborhood services under one director we can see the big picture of how those interrelated services impact residents,” he said.

Smith’s hiring further implements a reorganization plan proposed by Johnston to the City Commission in February aimed at providing services in a more efficient, cost-effective manner.

The plan divides City Hall into two sections: Services and Support. The former consists of those that work directly with residents and businesses: Economic Development, Fire, Neighborhood Services, Police and Public Works. The latter includes the Administrative, Finance and Legal departments, those that strengthen the work of the Services departments.

“Covington has a lot of energy right now,” Johnston said. “This reorganization will accelerate that momentum and help us not only become a regional leader in economic development and job growth but also in improving the quality of life of our residents, which ultimately is our highest priority.”

The City recently hired two professionals to boost its Support section: Muhammed Owusu, who has 20 years’ experience managing money and overseeing public spending in places like New York, Virginia and Washington, DC.; and communications manager Dan Hassert, who was former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s senior speechwriter for eight years and directed news coverage at The (now defunct) Kentucky Post newspaper.

They join several other top city leaders who took over their positions in 2017: Tom West was hired as economic development director in December and Johnston became city manager in August, the same month when then-Assistant Chief Rob Nader was promoted to chief of police.

“As we continue to fill open spots, the residents of Covington will see a City Hall better set up to address their concerns, provide services and keep the city strong,” Johnston said.

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