It hasn't been quite the transition Andrew White had envisioned.

The new Powell city manager's first official day on the job was April 1, as the state of Ohio was in the middle of a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Mike DeWine in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"Just like I wrote it up," White said sarcastically by phone from his office at the Municipal Building, where he hasn't yet worked with the full staff, nor likely will he soon.

"At the end of the day, a transition of this type is difficult no matter what," White said. "I've kept an open mind. Everything just kind of hit just as the move was taking place."

Remote working, social distancing and other measures to reduce the spread of the virus have changed but not obstructed White's acclimation to his new role, he said. Phone calls, video chats and other tools have allowed for connecting with department heads and other staff, as well as council members.

"The plan has always been to plug myself into the community," White said. "It's important to get that connectivity. Meeting with citizens and businesses and nonprofit groups has been challenging, but not impossible."

Powell City Council voted unanimously Feb. 18 to authorize Mayor Frank Bertone to enter into a contract with White, who will have a base salary of $130,000, increased to $135,000 after six months, according to his contract. He also has a benefits package.

"Andrew is doing a tremendous job of leading our team, especially during this unprecedented time. He has hit the ground running and is learning the operations of the city," Bertone said.

White also is "poring over a sea of information," he said, a benefit of the slowdown in activity due to COVID-19. From doing a full review of staff operations to digging into ongoing projects and development in the city, White's intent is to be thorough and to offer a fresh perspective, he said.

"There's no magic wand to wave on day one or even month one. It's a learning process," White said. "But there is an opportunity to see how we can do what we do but better. Having a fresh set of eyes, sometimes you can see opportunities and resources that are easy to look past when you're in the grind."

Eventually, White will present his assessments to City Council, and from there, it's about working together to achieve council's goals and to create plans of action for each city department, White said. The budget process that begins later in the year is an obviously big piece of this puzzle, too, he said. Ultimately, it's about providing a high quality of life while at the same time being good stewards of public resources, White said.

Having former City Manager Steve Lutz as a resource has been particularly helpful, he said.

"He's an encyclopedia of information from the past 25 years in the city, even back to before (Powell) was a city," White said, calling his working relationship with Lutz "a kind of mentorship."

Lutz returned the compliment.

"I did not know Andy personally prior to his arrival in Powell. Over the past week, I have enjoyed the time spent with him, learning his management style and philosophy, as well as his likes and interests," he said. "He will certainly be a great fit for the organization and community."

Taking a broad view of city matters hasn't kept White from being aware of particular situations that will require attention, including the still-unfinished Seldom Seen Park, the resurfacing of Sawmill Parkway and the as-yet-unknown economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent restrictions. White also said he has participated in some discussions with staff members about planned city events and how they might need to be handled in response to the pandemic.

"The Memorial Day parade, and then the next thing would be Powell Fest -- we're definitely having internal discussions about these with staff," White said. "These are community events that are important to people. But we need to consider public health and safety. But we haven't made decisions on how they will look yet."

Lutz agreed.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has certainly changed the face of our everyday lives, as well as how we need to perform our job functions. In just a very short period of time, I have noticed how quickly Andy can pivot in order to respond to new or immediate needs," he said.

Concurrently, White will continue to work on relocating his family to Powell. The 44-year-old has been living in a short-term rental while his twins finish fifth grade in Huron, where White had been city manager for 13 years.

Even that hasn't gone exactly as planned, White said, explaining that for a couple of weeks before he started in Powell, "I became really good at fifth-grade math."

"It was good to have the extra time to spend together," he said. "You just have to see every new opportunity as exciting."

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