2020 marks the beginning of a new decade for the world -- and a new era for Grandview Heights.
The city began its year by swearing in a new mayor for the first time in 16 years, with a new council president to be selected and a council vacancy to be filled, as well.
Greta Kearns was scheduled to take the oath of office as mayor Jan. 1 after defeating council member Steve Reynolds in the Nov. 5 election, replacing longtime Mayor Ray DeGraw.
City Council will elect one of its members to replace Kearns as council president at its meeting Monday, Jan. 6.
Newly elected council members Rebekah Hatzifotinos and Ryan Edwards also will be sworn in at the meeting. The two won election with incumbent Emily Keeler in an uncontested race in November.
Hatzifotinos isn't new to council; she was appointed Sept. 9 by council members to fill a vacancy that resulted when councilman Steve Gladman resigned. Gladman's term expired at the end of the year and he did not run for reelection. Reynolds ran for mayor and did not seek reelection to council.
As she takes office, Kearns said, one of her first priorities will be to fill positions that are or will be left vacant due to retirements.
Director of administration/ economic development Patrik Bowman and administrative assistant/clerk of council Debbie Nicodemus both retired at the end of 2019. Fire Chief Steve Shaner also plans to retire soon but has agreed to stay on until his replacement is selected.
In each case, the staff members wore at least two hats, and Kearns said their extra duties will be separated into new positions. The new director of administration won't have the economic-development tag, she said.
"Pat's had to focus so much on economic development, but I envision the new director of administration focusing more on the administrative side of things -- especially on making sure we implement the recommendations of the strategic plans we've adopted," Kearns said.
The city completed a strategic-planning process in 2019 that led to a new community plan and a civic spaces and places plan.
How the economic-development effort will be coordinated "is still to be defined," Kearns said.
"Economic development is always a function of local government, but it's not going to need as much of a focus for us because our efforts to build out our brownfield properties have been so successful," she said.
In November, council hired Leilani Napier to replace Nicodemus as clerk of council, a part-time position.
Kearns said she would name someone to fill Nicodemus' role as administrative secretary.
"The mayor is officially a part-time position, but I think you need someone full time in the administrative-secretary position to assist her on the day-to-day business that comes up," she said. "Being mayor really is a 365-day-a-year job."
For several years, Shaner has served not only as fire chief but as the city's head of information technology.
"He's done a great job keeping our community safe and handling all of the technological issues, but it's time for the IT position to have its own title," Kearns said.
The increasing complexity of maintaining the city's technical infrastructure has been a lot to ask of the fire chief, but Shaner has borne the duty without complaint, she said.
The IT position will be filled "as soon as possible," Kearns said
At some point in 2020, the city's finance department will move into the building at 1525 Goodale Blvd. that previously housed the service and building and zoning departments. Those departments moved in November to a new public-works complex on McKinley Avenue.
"With the new positions we'll be adding, we're just out of space" at the Municipal Building, 1016 Grandview Ave., Kearns said.
The building houses the administration and finance department and the police and fire departments.
The finance department operates out of a second-floor office that once served as council chambers.
"Moving them down to the old service department will ease things up here and buy us some time as we decide what to do about our municipal facilities," she said.
Finance director Bob Dvoraczky said he is looking to have his department to make the move in February.
"January is busy for us as we close the 2019 financial books, complete year-end reporting and turn the page for the new year," he said.
"The space previously occupied by the service and building departments is a logical fit for our staff as it is right-sized for our needs and provides flexibility of meeting with and assisting staff members from other city departments," Dvoraczky said.
The finance department team includes five staff members, including Dvoraczky.
The spaces and places plan recommends constructing a new municipal complex, including the fire and police departments, at the southeast corner of Goodale and Grandview.
"That's clearly the best solution, and it's one I support and I would hope most of council supports as well," Kearns said.
Over the next year, the city will engage in a design process to work toward determining the best way to use the Goodale site for a municipal complex and what the potential costs could be, she said.
"We've done a lot over the last several years to address some of our infrastructure needs and to improve our parks and swimming pool," Kearns said. "Now it's time to address our municipal facilities."
The Municipal Building, and especially the fire station, are "an embarrassment to our town," she said. "Our police officers and firefighters deserve much better. These are the first responders who protect us. They've been waiting a long time, and hopefully, they won't have to wait too much longer."
The design process will take a while, Kearns said, as will determining how a new municipal facility would be funded.
"I'm ready to start that process, and I think that council is also ready to start," she said.
The remainder of Kearns' council term runs through Dec. 31, 2021. Under the city charter, council has 60 days to fill the position after the seat is vacated, council Vice President Chris Smith said.
"That would give us until March 1 to fill the position because the vacancy begins on Jan. 1," he said. "If we didn't fill it within 60 days, the mayor would make the appointment. I would expect we would try to get the seat filled before the end of January."
Council likely will discuss the timetable and process for interviews of candidates at its Jan. 6 meeting, Smith said.
"We want to have the new council seated and the new council president in place before we would begin the process of filling the vacancy," he said.
The city also will face the expiration of its 7.5-mill property-tax levy at the end of 2020.
City officials will need to determine when to go to the ballot again, Kearns said.
Voters approved a four-year renewal of the levy in 2016.