‘A pyramid instead of a rake’: City reorganizes senior staff, creates new department

Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson has undertaken a major staff reorganization: Three senior staff members will oversee “functional groupings” that put multiple, related departments under one umbrella, and a new “general services” department will oversee building and vehicle maintenance. Jackson claims the changes will make for better coordination and efficiency,

Formerly, the city’s 12 department heads all answered to Jackson and Assistant City Manager Jeff Richardson, which has often proved cumbersome, Jackson tells Xpress.

“You add to that the city attorney and the city clerk, and that’s a span of control that’s very demanding on the city manager with only one assistant,” he says. “At the same time, I’m responding to seven City Council members. So I’m the man in the middle looking for a better way to delegate to keep things on track.” The changes, he notes, turn the city’s structure into a “pyramid instead of a rake.”

Last Fall, he began to contemplate a reorganization, especially as big projects or changes in the community often crossed involved areas overseen by multiple departments.

“A major impetus is wanting to make more progress on our strategic goals, like multimodal public transportation,” Jackson says. “The New Belgium experience had a lot to do with it. We were pulling people to address the public works and transportation issues. Rather than pulling them together on an ad-hoc basis, I felt it would be good to make the relations standing ones.”

The changes are intended to promote better teamwork, provide better focus on Asheville City Council’s goals, and enhance relationships both between departments and public.

Under the restructuring, Richardson will head up a “Public Safety and Management Services” group that will include the Asheville Police Department, the Asheville Fire Department, and the city’s Information Technology and Human Resources departments. Lauren Bradley, the city’s current finance chief, will direct a “Finance and Strategic Planning” group including oversight of the Planning, Economic Development, Development Services. Current Public Works Director Cathy Ball will run a “Public Works and Multimodal transportation” group including Transportation, Parks and Recreation, and the water system.

“We’re already seeing positive feedback, because we’re making it easy for people to get their questions answered,” Jackson says. “Now, for example, you go to Lauren Bradley if you’re dealing with any aspect of economic development.”

Additionally, Jackson has announced a new General Services Department, specifically focused on building and vehicle maintenance, with oversight of the $5 million, multiyear renovation of City Hall. Robert Griffin, who currently runs the Development Services department, will oversee this new department, which will fall under Richardson’s group. Shannon Tuch, currently assistant planning director, will serve as interim head of the department.

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