CHAMPAIGN — It's the end of an era in Champaign.
As retiring City Manager Steve Carter packs up and leaves the City Building, incoming City Manager Dorothy David said she's ready to pick up where he leaves off.
Today (Friday, March 29) marks Carter's last day of a 28-year run as the chief administrator in Champaign — a particularly long tenure in the profession. Since 1985, he has overseen a capital program quadruple from $5 million to $20 million annually and in recent yeas, helped pull the city budget through an economic recession.
His career dates back to the breakup of the Neil Street pedestrian mall.
Those are just a few items on a long list of career milestones, but the outgoing Carter said not everything is finished.
"If you waited to retire until you got everything done, you'd never retire," Carter said.
The work will be left for David, who has been assistant city manager for five years and neighborhood services director for 13 years before that.
David said she is ready. She has been working very closely with Carter since her contract was approved in December to ensure a smooth transition.
Carter said some key projects for David will be getting back to some kind of normalcy following the economic recession and continuing a campaign to protect the Mahomet Aquifer, a natural underground reservoir that provides drinking water for Champaign-Urbana-Savoy and more than 700,000 residents of central Illinois.
But, at the beginning, David said her focus will be hearing what other people have to say.
"My priority right now is to ask a lot of questions and listen to a lot of people," she said.
Carter said David's interpersonal and communication skills will help her in her new role.
In the six months since Carter announced his retirement, Champaign City Council members have expressed a deep respect for his management skills and what the city accomplished during his 28 years. Officials have said a noticeable emphasis has been placed on neighborhood wellness and rational outward growth.
Not much of that is expected to change under David's leadership. She said that there are certain processes and values that will continue to be an important part of how the city runs.
"Those things are going to be the foundation and are not going to change," David said.
If there is a change to be made, David said, it could be technical.
"I think we need to look at how accessible we are online," she said.
Carter admits that was not one of his strong points.
"She's a lot more tech-savvy than the city manager who's leaving, that's for sure," Carter said.
David also said it will be important to move forward strongly as the city comes out of the recession. She said the budget has already survived the worst as revenues fell and expenses continued to increase, but the city is in a healthier position than most.
She expects to take advantage of that.
"Now is not the time to hunker down," she said.
David said she reminds people that she does not have unilateral authority to set a vision for the city — that is up to the elected officials, who are due for another two-year goal-setting exercise this summer.
"It's my job to go back to projects the council wants to work on and make sure they get done," David said.
And in the end, she said it will not be about her anyway.
"It's not about what I accomplish," David said. "You realize the greatest value you have is being able to motivate and inspire other people to make accomplishments."