FAIRBORN — For the past year, Rob Anderson has sat in generally the same area in council chambers, a few rows from the back of the auditorium – pretty close to the same seat.
Monday however, the city’s former economic development director took a different seat — for the first time getting to see things from a different point of view — as he took the stage and officially took the helm as the city’s new manager.
“The view is a little different up here,” Anderson said, after council formally announced its decision to make the 45-year-old Vandalia man the new city manager, during a regular meeting.
When the announcement was made in the meeting, Anderson embraced his father and two sons before taking his seat on the stage.
“This is nice,” he said, smiling. “I have had a lot of good fortune in my life, and this is another piece – to get to work with some excellent people.”
Anderson said his promotion was not an “I thing.”
“I could not have done this without their support and yours,” he added, after he introduced his dad, his sons Trey, 15, and Sam, 13, and girlfriend. “We are going in the right direction (as a city), and we are going to continue to build on the successes we have had… Thank you for buying into this.”
For the past four or five months, Mayor Dan Kirkpatrick said the assistant city manager, Pete Bales, filled the void of position after the former city manager, Deborah McDonnell, took a position in New York.
Bales will remain assistant city manager. He was one of several finalists city council had to choose from in a highly competitive selection process.
Monday night, however, the vote was unanimous to promote Anderson –awarding him a three-year contract at $125,000 annually with vehicle and phone allowances, among other professional allowances, and moving reimbursements.
Anderson said next he plans to move to Fairborn from Vandalia, which is a about a 20-minute commute.
“I’m excited to get started,” he told council members. “I am excited to move to Fairborn and be a part of this community full time… I do need to sell my house. But I certainly do plan to move here.”
As a vested resident of the city, Anderson said it will make him a better city manager.
“I see several neighborhoods I like,” Anderson said, after the meeting. “There’s plenty of choices, which is another great selling point of this community… If I am going to lead a community, being a full time resident of the community makes me a better manager because I have to live with that decision.
“As a member of the community, I have to hear from neighbors and citizens when I go out. I have to be accountable to those people. It’s harder to be accountable if I don’t live here.”
Anderson said living in Fairborn, is “more appropriate.”
After his formal introduction, members of council individually welcomed him.
“Today was a historic day,” said Mayor Kirkpatrick. “Not only do we have a new city manager, but we also got to meet the new president of Wright State University – which is located in Fairborn.”
The mayor said there were a lot of people involved in their city manager search.
“It was really quite a process,” he said. “We don’t replace a city manager every day. So we wanted to make sure we got it right… We had three great candidates. But we had to pick one.”
The mayor emphasized that Pete Bales did “a fantastic job as our interim city manager.”
“We look forward to many opportunities,” he said. “Great things are happening for Fairborn.”
Anderson said he is honored to have made it through such a competitive hiring process.
When asked what might have set him apart from the competition, what put him ahead in such a close contest, Anderson said:
“Council is familiar with me and some of the projects I brought to them. I felt like I had a really good honest heart-to-heart interview. I told them what we could do here and I think that just resonated with them.”
Anderson said council sees they are on the right track, doing things well, and he will continue that and encourage growth.
“We don’t need to make any major changes,” he said. “They are comfortable with what we are doing. We are going to keep the momentum going with an internal candidate.”
With just a little more than a year as economic development director, Anderson said he has a firm grasp on council’s “30,000-foot vision.”
“With a 30,000-foot vision, you can see some details, but it’s more an overall philosophy,” he said. “My job is to take that vision and implement that on a day-to-day basis. I tend to be more of a creative thinker. How can we address these issues we’ve been addressing for 20 years a little differently, efficiently and effectively?
“How can we emphasize economic development? What can we do to keep and attract companies here? I work with council. They chart the course, I steer the ship.”
Moving forward, the number one goal is economic development, to make the city more attractive, and to work with entrepreneurs who want to start a business in Fairborn.
“The main theme is that we are a customer-service-organization,” Anderson explained. “We don’t make anything. We don’t sell anything. We are providing services to our citizens.
“How can we be more responsive to our customers?” Anderson asked. “How can we keep this customer service focus, and make ourselves more attractive for economic development.”
Council meets again at 7 p.m. March 20.
Brian Evans is a freelance writer. Email him at [email protected]