After nearly four years of serving as Johnstown's village manager under a "gentleman's agreement," Jim Lenner finally has a contract with the village.
Lenner, who was promoted from village planner in 2010, was being paid by a resolution that set guidelines for his salary and benefits, but he never actually had been signed to a contract.
Johnstown Village Council on Aug. 5 remedied that, authorizing a five-year contract for Lenner that to continue paying him an annual salary of $86,500 plus benefits and vehicle reimbursement.
Mayor Sean Staneart said the contract has been far too long in the making.
"It's fair to (Lenner) that we get it out of the way," Staneart said. "It's the right thing to do for him. He's been with us for however long and we haven't had a contract, and he's been more than willing to work with council to get things done. I think it's our responsibility as a council to get him a contract for him and his family to know that we want him here."
Lenner and Staneart both cited a hectic period of time for the village as reasons a contract hadn't been entered.
"We've just been so busy getting things done, council and myself just had an understanding of a verbal contract, for the most part," Lenner said. "We were all on the same page; it was just a matter of formalizing.
"I trusted council, and I think they trusted me. Everyone was just working hard and going forward with the understanding that we'd get it formalized here pretty soon. ... There was just never an opportunity."
In the council-manager form of "weak mayor" government that Johnstown uses, Lenner's position comes with plenty of power and responsibility. Staneart said many residents might not know all that he does for the village.
"We think of Jim as the CEO of the village," Staneart said. "The council would be the board that the CEO answers to, but as CEO, he's essentially in charge of all the departments. Obviously, he has directors that he leans on heavily, ... but in essence, he's the director of all other directors that we have."
Another important part of Lenner's role, Staneart said, is to make tough decisions, some of which would make his contract even more necessary.
"The importance of him being under contract would be the fact that sometimes he's doing things that aren't always popular," Staneart said. "The right decisions aren't always popular. But sometimes he might feel like it's a popularity contest for council because he doesn't have a contract. And he might not always have the confidence from council to go through with a decision that he knows is right but might not be the popular one."
Staneart called Lenner "hugely qualified" and said that the village frequently gets compliments on his work and often has had to fend off others trying to pry him away.
More importantly, Staneart said, is that the move solidifies Lenner as a member of the Johnstown community.
"You can always pay an administrator," Staneart said. "But when those decisions are going to affect his family, his kids, their schools, I think that makes a huge impact on his ability to do a job and be able to put more effort in than someone who isn't tied to the community."