New Westerville City Manager Monica Irelan says job was 'opportunity I couldn't pass up'

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

Westerville’s first female city manager, Monica Irelan, is on the job.

Irelan, 37, formally began her duties Jan. 4 and worked alongside longtime City Manager David Collinsworth through Jan. 8, when he retired.

“I’ve been going department to department, meeting all the department heads and their staff, getting an update on all projects that are progressing and what needs to get done next,” she said.

Monica Irelan is Westerville's new city manager, succeeding Dave Collinsworth, who retired.

Irelan said she’s getting to know everyone and understanding where she will be helpful to staff in the future.

“The main goals right now are just a lot of relationship building,” she said. “I really need to build the relationships with department heads and staff, and I need to get out in the community and meet all the community partners, key developers and other friends of the city and make sure we build a good relationship so we can continue to move forward.”

More:Westerville selects Painesville's Monica Irelan as next city manager

More:Westerville selects search firm, sets timeframe for replacing Collinsworth

Collinsworth said Westerville has a track record of success that can be attributed to the entire management team and to city councils that have had a strong vision. 

He said his advice to Irelan is to rely on her team to help lead. 

“Give-them-what-they-need-and-get-out-of-the-way type of a thing,” Collinsworth said. “There’s really tremendous talent in the organization, and they’ve taken us to great heights to date and will continue to do so. The job of the manager is really to help set that vision but also to support that team so they can achieve what the community needs.”

Irelan will be paid an annual salary of $180,000. She declined the city's health, vision and dental benefits.

Collinsworth career highlights

Collinsworth said he has seen many been significant improvements in the city during the past 13 years.

"When I came in late 2007, our financial forecast looked a little grim, frankly," he said. "We set about correcting that in 2008. We did an income-tax restructuring proposal that helped kind of equalize. Our residents were paying an income tax, but (we) also generated additional revenue that was needed to operate the city and invest in the infrastructure of the community."

Longtime Westerville City Manager David Collinsworth has retired.

He said another significant achievement has been the South State Street corridor.

"The planning around that had been going on for two to three years before my arrival, in terms of the future vision for this tired thoroughfare that was built in the '60s and '70s and just needed a total refresh."

He said improvements included burying the utilities, access management, lighting and visual aesthetics.

"The proof is in the pudding," Collinsworth said. "For about every dollar we put into public infrastructure, there was about $3 of private investment that followed, including things like the Aloft hotel and the renovation of several of the shopping centers."

He said those are among top achievements during his tenure, as well as the success with the city's parks and recreation department.

"We built the new aquatics center – the $22 million expansion of the Community Center," Collinsworth said. "We have the premier community center/rec center certainly in central Ohio, if not the entire state. This community highly values parks and recreation."

Opportunity

In the city-manager realm, Irelan said, Westerville is one of the highest-functioning, well-run communities in the state.

"If you’re going to be a city manager, this is where you want to end up," she said. "As soon as I saw that opportunity, I really wanted to be here. I didn’t want to leave my community because I did love working for Painesville. But it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up."

In the profession of city management, Irelan said, a low percentage are female. 

"On last review, it was 8%," she said. "I didn’t know that when I wanted to get into this career. That really never crossed my mind. Once you’re in it, it’s kind of an extra badge of honor you carry with you – just breaking that ceiling so others can follow behind you. There’s always a little bit of pressure."

Irelan said a little extra perfectionism, maybe, comes in to play.

"You don’t want to make any critical mistakes," she said. "I think overall the profession itself we all want to be as perfect as we can be. Because you want to do what’s best for that community that you work for."

Irelan had been city manager of Painesville, a jurisdiction of 19,880, since 2016.

In Painesville, she managed a $77 million city budget, including municipal utilities, public safety, public works, building/zoning, parks and recreation, and economic and community development. 

Collinsworth announced his retirement in April 2020.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla