Columbus Mayor-elect Jim Lienhoop will change the structure of city government’s chain of command when he takes office Jan. 1.

Rather than requiring all departments to report directly to him, Lienhoop, a Republican, has brought back two former department heads and placed them in executive positions to help oversee some areas of the city’s operations.

Mary Ferdon will serve as Lienhoop’s executive director of administration and community development. She takes over roles that had been held by Jeff Logston, director of administration, and Carl Malysz, community development director since April 2013. Logston joined city government during the first year of Republican Kristen Brown’s single term in office.

In her new role, Ferdon will oversee general city operations, including community development, finances, human resources, information technology, risk management and city facilities.

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Dave Hayward will step in as executive director of public works and city engineer, in charge of city engineering, streets, traffic, sanitation and transit. He replaces Beth Fizel, who served as city engineer the past two years.

“Columbus has grown quite a bit, and life in general is more complicated and there are more rules to administer,” Lienhoop said. “It’s a tough job if you’ve got 20 people who report directly to you, so I thought I would spread that out a little bit with capable help.”

While a majority of department heads will report to Ferdon or Hayward, public safety departments will report directly to Lienhoop.

“Those demand the highest attention, so I should have those much closer to me than the others,” he said.

Returns to city posts

Ferdon’s experience in the public sector stems from her degree in public administration and a 10-month stint as community development director for Brown in 2012.Most recently, Ferdon worked in the private sector as executive director of the Volunteers in Medicine clinic. However, Ferdon said Volunteers in Medicine is shifting its structure to run more like a medical clinic than a not-for-profit operation, which is outside her expertise.The timing of that shift aligned with Lienhoop’s request for Ferdon — his campaign chairwoman — to join his leadership team, Ferdon said.

“Jim Lienhoop has the skills to be a great mayor, and I want to be a part of where Columbus is going,” she said.

Like Ferdon, Hayward previously had served in city government. He was city engineer under three prior administrations.

He resigned as Brown’s city engineer in July 2013 to join Christopher B. Burke Engineering. His return involves expanded responsibilities placed on the city engineer, Hayward said.

“There will be more opportunities for cooperation and collaboration between departments and a chance for me to influence and to be involved in more things,” he said.

When selecting the department heads that would help him oversee the city’s day-to-day operations, Lienhoop said he was looking for people with experience not only in municipal government work, but specifically in Columbus’ government work. Ferdon and Hayward each met that qualification.

“They have some organizational knowledge that I think you might miss without that experience,” Lienhoop said.

Part-time city attorney

The mayor-elect also appointed a new city attorney, Alan Whitted, who will serve in that role part-time. Logston has served as city attorney and director of administration, a full-time position, under Brown.Like Ferdon and Hayward, Whitted also had served previously in city government. He was city attorney from 2011-2012 and was a deputy city attorney from 1995 to 2010.Local attorneys Michael DeArmitt, Mary Stroh and Alex Whitted will assist him in his work with the city.

Lienhoop said he chose to restore the city attorney to a part-time position as both a cost-saving measure for the city and as a way to allow Whitted to continue working at his private law practice in Columbus.

Interviews for fire chief, a position currently held by Dave Allman, are ongoing. All city firefighters were eligible to apply for the job.

Lienhoop said he hopes to fill that position by Friday, giving the new chief time to assemble his or her staff.

The remaining department heads, including police chief Jon Rohde, were reappointed to their positions.

“I didn’t want to be too disruptive to the staff in place,” Lienhoop said.

With his team assembled, the mayor-elect said he is now ready to begin focusing on the priorities he has set for early in his term.

Chief among those priorities is public safety and the growing drug problem in Columbus. Lienhoop said he wants to see expanded collaboration between the Columbus Police Department and Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department to find ways to combat drug crimes.

Looking forward

Additionally, Lienhoop said he wants to look for new economic and educational opportunities to grow the city’s workforce.Ongoing projects like development along the riverfront, State Street, Walesboro and Second and Lafayette — projects Lienhoop worked on during his time on the Columbus City Council — also will be on his radar, he said.“We’ll not miss a beat on that stuff,” he said.

In addition to the mayor-elect’s goals, Ferdon said she would like to see the city’s arts district coalition reassembled.

For his part, Hayward said he wants to create safer pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists in the city, especially as more residents are choosing to use those methods of transportation instead of vehicles.

With 18 days remaining before he becomes the city’s 37th chief executive, Lienhoop said he is confident the leadership team he has assembled will be able to competently support him as he works to make Columbus a better place for its residents.

“I look forward to Jan. 1 and what comes after that,” he said.

Lienhoop's team

Mayor-elect Jim Lienhoop’s new city hall leadership team includes:

  • Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development
  • Dave Hayward, executive director of public works/city engineer
  • Alan Whitted, part-time city attorney
  • Brian Payne, aviation director
  • Cindy Setzer, ColumBuS transit director
  • Deborah Holt, Columbus Housing Authority executive director
  • Keith Reeves, Columbus utilities director
  • Aida Ramirez, Human Rights Commission director
  • Mark Jones, parks and recreation director
  • Jeff Bergman, planning director
  • Chief Jon Rohde, police chief
  • Bryan Burton, public works director
  • Heather Pope, redevelopment commission director
  • Nicohl Birdwell-Goodin, general manager of animal care services

Interviews for fire chief are ongoing.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.