Kettering city manager focuses on learning, strategic plan, jobs in first year

Greeson replaced longtime leader Schwieterman in January, draws praise from another city veteran in mayor Lehner

Matt Greeson got an early start last year with his new job as Kettering city manager, closing on a house in the city in December and shadowing his predecessor for a few weeks before taking over Jan. 1.

While Greeson was eager to start and had more than 25 years in local government, the longtime Worthington city manager was changing environments for the first time in 16 years and called Mark Schwieterman’s tutorial “valuable time.”

He also relied on the city management team — which Kettering Mayor Peggy Lehner said “has a certain level of stability” — while he got to know the community better.

“The technical aspects aren’t dramatically different” from Worthington, said Greeson, who turns 52 Sunday. “But the context is always different — getting to know the people … and learning how Kettering does things. So, I’ve leaned on a lot of (staff) for that context and to help learn the community.”

Schwieterman and former Mayor Don Patterson gave Kettering remarkable stability, leading the city together for 15 years until recently.

In his first year on the job, Greeson’s leadership style has served the city well, Lehner said.

“He is attentive to detail,” she said. “He does include other people’s opinions and seeks out those opinions, but he has a high level of confidence in his own judgment without being arrogant about it.

“The staff generally seems to really like working with him and they seem to feel very comfortable with him, which means he’s being inclusive in his decision making,” Lehner added.

Greeson calls it “a facilitative or a participatory leadership style … I like to hear people and include people in the decision-making process and build consensus where I can.

“I think that’s who I am,” he added. “So, I don’t think that style has necessarily changed. It’s actually become more important as I try to become familiar with a new community.”

Among his priorities is “to learn the community and the region, build relationships, meet employees, business leaders and engage with (people) at all levels,” he said. “It’s been a priority in the first nine months and it will remain a priority throughout my career here.”

A “key priority” in the coming year will be to attract more jobs to Miami Valley Research Park and Kettering Business Park, where the city lost 1,900 jobs when Synchrony Financial pulled out a few years ago after its corporate office chose a work-from-home strategy.

Another corporate decision caused the loss of hundreds of jobs after Tenneco chose to close its Woodman Drive auto parts manufacturing plant.

The Tenneco site and more than 50 acres at the research park are owned by Industrial Commercial Properties. ICP has had ongoing talks with the city about job and residential growth at Miami Valley Research Park that “will start to move forward in 2024,” Greeson said.

“I think there’s a bright future there,” he added. “Certainly there’s a lot of steps that have to be taken in order to bring not only those residential opportunities, but job opportunities to fruition.”

As Tenneco departs, “we believe ICP will start making improvements to that site and there will be market interest in it,” Greeson said.

Attracting jobs is an issue Greeson excels in, according to Worthington City Council President David Robinson.

He has “fostered financial stability and successfully advanced economic development strategies to further Worthington’s position as a vibrant place to do business,” Robinson said in the announcement that Greeson was taking the Kettering job.

Job growth, development and redevelopment — notably for housing — are expected be focal points of strategic plan Greeson has been deeply involved in this year, Lehner said.

The plan, called Spark Kettering, has been a yearlong process Kettering wants to finalize later this year, Greeson said.

“That’s going to help guide our efforts the next three to five years and it gives us, as an organization, priorities to focus on,” he said.

Lehner said of Greeson’s performance “I don’t think we could ask for a better job, frankly. I think he’s worked very hard to get to know the city and to catch up to get to know all the personnel, to get to know the players in the community … It’s been a pleasure to work with him.”

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