Who will be Cincinnati's next city manager?

A look at five possible candidates

CINCINNATI -- He doesn’t take office until Dec. 1, but Cincinnati Mayor-elect John Cranley is expected to announce Wednesday who he wants for the next city manager.

Earlier this week Cranley said he would make the announcement before Thanksgiving.

The current city manager, Milton Dohoney Jr., will leave office Dec. 1. In a deal reached Nov. 13, Dohoney will receive one year’s salary -- $255,000 – as severance.

The city manager oversees daily operations of municipal government and a 5,600-member workforce. The manager leads 17 city departments.

The mayor and City Council determine policies and set direction for the city through legislative measures, but the execution of policy is the city manager’s responsibility.

Under Cincinnati’s form of government, although the mayor can suggest candidates for the city manager’s job, the final decision is left up to City Council. At least five members of the nine-member group must approve the choice before the person may be hired.

Some contenders, who may be in line to nab the job:

Stephen Leeper

Leeper is president and CEO of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), a development group tasked by city officials with revitalizing downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

Cranley has publicly spoken about his admiration for 3CDC’s efforts, particularly its work in revamping Washington Park and attracting new businesses to Vine Street. The mayor-elect has said he wants to replicate “the 3CDC model” with groups whose goal is to redevelop other city neighborhoods.

As 3CDC’s head, Leeper manages $250 million in local, corporately funded revolving loan funds. During the past seven years, he has managed the agency’s investment of $466 million in Fountain Square and downtown.

Leeper has been with 3CDC almost from its inception, starting his job in April 2004.

Willie Carden Jr.

Carden Jr. is Cincinnati parks director. Under his leadership, the city’s sprawling park system

has won multiple national awards including one for the design of Smale Riverfront Park, which is being created along downtown’s southern edge.

Cincinnati’s park system – which includes five regional parks, 70 neighborhood parks and 34 nature preserves – is routinely ranked as one of the nation’s top urban park systems by the Trust for Public Land.

As parks director, Carden was responsible for raising $40 million to get the Smale project started. In recent years, he’s also had to devise plans to deal with shrinking budgets and make cuts that didn’t jeopardize the park department’s core mission.

Before taking the parks job in April 2000, Carden oversaw the city’s sanitation division and once managed Riverfront Stadium.

Former Mayor Charlie Luken, one of Cranley’s political mentors, has called Carden “the best department head we had while I was there.” 

Tim Riordan

Tim Riordan is city manager of Dayton, Ohio. Before he took that job in 2009, Riordan worked for the city of Cincinnati for six years, serving in several positions.

During his time in the Queen City, Riordan was finance director, assistant city manager, and acting city manager.  Luken appointed him to the latter job in late 2001, to replace the fired John Shirey while a permanent replacement was chosen.

Riordan was one of four candidates in the running to fill the position on a permanent basis, but the job ultimately went to then-Dayton City Manager Valerie Lemmie.

He is known for his low-key management style and ability to quickly assume control of existing projects.

Scott Stiles

Scott Stiles is an assistant city manager in Cincinnati. He began work at City Hall in 1988, and held several jobs in municipal government.

His past positions include managing the city's Real Estate Office, serving as a police-community relations representative with the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, and acting as a personnel analyst in the Human Resources Department.

Since he joined the city manager’s staff in 2002, Stiles has overseen the expansion of the Duke Energy Convention Center and Findlay Market, helping to transition both to private, nonprofit management.

Also, Stiles represents Dohoney on the city's labor negotiations team. 

Dave Rager

Dave Rager is executive director of Sanitation District No. 1, the agency that provides sewer and storm water management service for Northern Kentucky.

Before Rager began that job in 2012, he served as CEO of the Greater Cincinnati Water Works for 18 years. During his time at the utility, he served as deputy city manager for Cincinnati, and served for a year as interim city manager at City Council’s request.

Additionally, Rager has served as director of Cincinnati’s now-defunct Public Safety Department, in which he oversaw police, fire and emergency response services.

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