Baltimore finance director Cranley's choice for city manager

Jul 30, 2014

Harry E. Black, the finance director in Baltimore, is Mayor John Cranley’s pick to be Cincinnati’s next city manager, according to a source close to the mayor.

"I'm very excited about this,'' Cranley said in a news conference this afternoon in the mayor's office. "Here's a guy who lifted himself up by  his own bootstraps in a very tough neighborhood of Baltimore."

As finance director in Baltimore, Cranley said, he guided the city to the first upgrade in the city's credit rating in 10 years.

"He's steeped in getting the city's budget situation in order,'' Cranley said.

The 51-year-old Black, who has headed Baltimore’s finances since January 2012, must be confirmed by Cincinnati City Council. Cranley chose Black over interim city manager Scott Stiles, who will reamin on as an assistant city manager.

"It was a very tough decision between him and Scott,'' Cranley said. In the end, Cranley said he decided "that a fresh set of eyes is good for the organization."

Stiles had been interim city manager since last November, when then-city manager Milton Dohoney resigned after the election of Cranley as mayor. Dohoney was paid $253,760 a year.

According to news reports in the Baltimore Sun newspaper, Black, with the help of a consulting firm, set Baltimore on a 10-year long-term financial plan to help the city avoid future financial programs.

In the 1990s, Black served as the District of Columbia’s budget and finance officer.

From 2003 to 2008, he was  deputy chief administrator of Richmond, Va., under then-mayor Douglas Wilder. A 2007 Richmond Magazine article described him as “the mayor’s pit bull” and a man with a reputation “for loyally serving the mayor.”

He also has experience in the private sector as a consultant to governments, according to the Sun.

Black is at city hall today, holding private meetings with individual city council members, who are expected to take up the decision on his hiring next month.

Cranley said a 9-0 vote of council confirming Black "would be nice," but expects that a majority of city council to confirm his choice.

The mayor said that his first interview with Black was over Skype. Cranley said that when he asked Black what he would do if a constituent called about a pothole, "he said, 'I'd feel like it was my fault, that falls to me.'"

Black, Cranley said, "feels the citizens' problems are his problems."

Council member Kevin Flynn, who was at Cranley's press conference, said his Rules and Audit Committee would meet Tuesday morning and invite all nine members of council to come and ask questions of the city manager nominee.

A vote by the full council is expected next Wednesday.