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After months-long national search, Cincinnati's next city manager will be one of two internal candidates

City Hall as seen from Plum St. in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wednesday, May 12, 2021.
Jason Whitman
City Hall as seen from Plum St. in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wednesday, May 12, 2021.

Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval announced Wednesday he's chosen two finalists to be the city's next city manager, and both candidates are already working in City Hall: Interim City Manager John Curp and Assistant City Manager Sheryl Long.

Pureval promised a national search while campaigning for mayor last year and kicked off the process when he took office in January. The city will pay up to $60,000 to the executive search firm PoliHire to conduct the hiring process (the approved contract is $36,000 for services and $24,000 for travel, and Pureval says there was very little travel).

PoliHire promised to deliver highly qualified and racially diverse candidates. In the end, 21 people applied, including just three women — a relatively small list without as much diversity as expected. Pureval says Cincinnati faces a lot of challenges that could have impacted interest in the position.

"The fact that we've had so many city managers in a short amount of time, coupled with the recent, unfortunate bad headlines as it relates to corruption and federal indictments in our city," he said.

He says publishing the full list of applicants also discouraged some potential candidates from applying.

"I think our open records laws are fantastic; I think they promote transparency at every level of government," Pureval said. "But in this case, those laws did have a chilling effect on folks who were considering applying, particularly sitting city managers and sitting assistant city managers. Without certainty that they would get the position it would have a tremendous negative impact on their current career."

Pureval interviewed five applicants, along with a panel that included Michael Fisher, Latisha Hazell, former Mayor Mark Mallory, and Ed Ramsey.

In addition to Curp and Long, the panel interviewed Nicholas Gardner (VP of engineering and architecture for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), David Johnston (former city manager of Covington), and Khalil Zaied (VP for special projects for Cincinnati-based KCI Technologies).

Curp and Long will meet one-on-one with all nine council members for final interviews. Pureval will get feedback from council members before sending his final selection to council for a vote.

Council is on summer recess until the first full week of September. Pureval says he'll call a special Council session for August 29 if the decision is ready by then.

About the finalists

Interim City Manager John Curp

Curp was Pureval's choice to serve as Interim City Manager when Paula Boggs Muething resigned earlier this year; he's been in the role since mid-January. He's paid about $273,000 a year and can expect a big payout (around $400,000) if he's not selected as the next city manager or isn't offered another senior-level management position paying at least 75% of his current salary (about $205,000).

Since January, Curp has managed the preparation of the budget for fiscal year 2023, which went into effect in July.

Curp served as city solicitor from 2008 to 2014, serving under Mayor Mark Mallory; he was demoted about month into Mayor John Cranley's term, then left shortly after.

Since then, Curp has worked as a partner at the law firm Blank Rome in Cincinnati. Before his first job with the city, Curp was a partner at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister in Columbus from 1995 to 2008.

Curp has a Bachelor of Science in business-finance from Miami University and a law degree from Indiana University.

Assistant City Manager Sheryl Long

Long is one of two current assistant city managers for the city, serving in that role since April 2019. Her annual salary is about $185,000.

She previously worked as city administrator for North College Hill (2016 to 2019) and communications director for North College Hill (2013 to 2015).

Her current role includes overseeing several city departments: Buildings and Inspections; Public Services; Transportation and Engineering; Greater Cincinnati Water Works and Stormwater Management Utility; Metropolitan Sewer District; Economic Inclusion; Emergency Communications Center; Human Resources; Special Events; Communications; Environment and Sustainability; Health Board Liaison; Duke Energy Convention Center.

Prior to public service, Long worked as a senior manager for PLK Property and Commercial Management Company (2006 to 2013), and in sales and marketing for Ryan Homes (2003 to 2006).

She has a Bachelor of Arts in Black world studies from Miami University and a Master of Arts in marketing from Southern New Hampshire University.

She is a candidate for Credentialed Manager through the International City/County Management Association.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.