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Cranley selects Parks Director Carden for city manager

Jay Hanselman
Willie Carden

UPDATE: 11/27, 3 p.m.

At a crowded press conference inside Krohn Conservatory Wednesday afternoon, Mayor-elect John Cranley named his new city manager - parks director Willie Carden, a long-time city employee.

Carden's appointment is likely to be confirmed by the new city council on Wednesday.

"I wanted somebody I knew would be an operations guy,'' Cranley told the crowd of business leaders, politicians, and park board employees. "I think most of us believe that the parks department is one of the best run operations in the city."

Carden - who is given credit for building the Smale Riverfront Park at The Banks and expanding the parks system over his 13 years in office - was gleeful at the announcement, lavishing praise on the city parks department staff he has worked with and giving thanks for the opportunities he has had in his 27 years with the city.

"Now is my opportunity to pay it forward,'' Carden said.

He will, he said, "provide the new mayor and council with the information they need to make the important decisions they have to make."

Carden said his friend O'dell Owens, the president of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, asked him "why would you go from heaven to hell."

"He said, 'don't answer that; if anybody can fix hell, it's you,''' Carden said.

Carden began his 27-years with the city in the sanitation department and has been the director of the parks system  since 2000.

Cranley said the 53-year-old Carden will be paid $235,000 a year - $20,000 a year less than the city manager he is replacing, Milton Dohoney, who was fired by Cranley in one of his first acts after being elected mayor in the November 5 election.

Carden is three years away from being eligible for his city pension; and Cranley said Carden was given the guarantee that "that pension will be protected." Cranley said that Carden agreed to having no severance package should he leave office when a new administration comes to power. Dohoney leaves office at midnight Saturday and will be paid one year's salary as severance.

Assistant city manager Scott Stiles will serve as acting city manager until Carden is confirmed by council.

Cranley said that newly-elected council member Kevin Flynn, one of several council members present at Wednesday's announcement, will chair the rules committee on the new council. Flynn's committee will vet Carden's appointment and make a recommendation to council, which is likely to act on Carden's appointment at next Wednesday's council meeting.

Cranley and the new council will be sworn in to office on Sunday.

Carden side-stepped the most controversial issue facing the new council - whether or not to continue with the construction of the $133 million streetcar project, which Cranley opposes.

"I need to have some dialogue with people on that; I'm not up to speed on the issue,'' Carden said. "Once I get in,  I want to be able to give council information so they can make a decision."

Cranley said he had originally considered a national search for a new city manager, but decided against it.

"As I got to know Willie, it became more and more obvious to me that Willie was the guy,'' Cranley said.

Cranley said that when he consulted others on the choice the most common question he got was "he's probably going to outshine you. Do you really want that? The answer is yes, yes I do."