COLUMBIANA - Not only is the city losing its manager, but his backup is also retiring after 18 years.
Service Director Jay Groner, who was appointed to the position by City Manager Keith Chamberlin in 1994, has announced he is retiring after more than 40 years of working in Columbiana.
Groner told city officials of his intention to retire after Chamberlin announced he was leaving the position he has held the last 20 years. Both said their decisions were based solely on changes to the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System (OPERS).
The changes were signed into law by Gov. John Kasich and take effect Jan. 7, 2013. They increase employee contributions, compute new final average salaries, require longer service and reduce cost-of-living adjustments.
A September article in the Columbus Dispatch said the changes are to ensure that the pension systems can meet the state requirement that their unfunded liabilities be paid off within 30 years.
Groner and Chamberlin both said it makes no financial sense for them to remain in the positions after the changes take effect.
"The changes in it are very significant," Groner said, adding that he has roughly 40-and-a-half years service credit through the system for his employment that began with the city in 1969.
His first job was with the park, and over the years he has worked in other departments, including serving as cemetery superintendent 15 years.
He doesn't intend to be rehired by the city after his retirement although he does intend to continue working in some capacity.
"It's a very bittersweet decision. I don't know that I'd come back. I'll find my fingers in something but I don't know what," he said.
He and Chamberlin will both be leaving on Dec. 31, and Chamberlin said he will not appoint the new service director. That will be a task for the new city manager.
Mayor David Spatholt said he, Councilman Bob Bieshelt and council clerk Deann Davis are getting together to come up with minimum requirements for the city manager position.
The job has not formally been posted as open but it will be advertised soon, he added.
Councilman Bryan Blakeman said 12 people submitted input through the city's website, its Facebook page and his own personal website regarding the attributes the next manager should possess.
"People that supplied their thoughts to us were extremely detailed and very personal. They spent a lot of time on this. I'd like to say thank-you to the people who did that, it sends a message to us," he said.
He also said that during the closed door meetings council has held to discuss the position they are all "on the same page" regarding the type of person who should be hired.
Chamberlin and Groner are making $86,000 and $65,000 a year, respectively.