Longevity of Kettering city managers called ‘very unusual’ as new search starts

City has had only two city managers over the past 32 years, but Schwieterman is retiring at end of 2022

Kettering is starting a process it has undertaken only twice since 1990 — hiring a new city manager.

A few other Dayton-area cities have had similar stability in their top administrative jobs, but such longevity is “very unusual,” a Wright State University public administration professor said.

“The tenure for city managers in general is not very long,” said Daniel Warshawsky, director of WSU’s master of public administration program.

Kettering has contracted with a Georgia management consulting firm to recruit possible replacements for Mark Schwieterman, who is leaving as the city’s top administrator when his contract expires at the end of the year.

Schwieterman replaced Steve Husemann in 2006 with both serving about 16 years as city manager of Montgomery County’s most populous suburb.

The Ohio City/County Management Association does not have records on the longest tenured city managers in one job, that organization’s Sandra Miller said in an email.

However, Centerville, Miamisburg and Oakwood (three city managers each) are among the few area cities with similar top administrative stability the past 32 years, Dayton Daily News’ research found.

That includes Oakwood’s David Foell serving a three-decade tenure starting in 1963 and Norbert Klopsch’s ongoing 22-year service as that city’s manager.

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Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

In Centerville, Darryl Kenning ran day-to-day operations from 1974-92, then his replacement, Greg Horn, ran the city for a term spanning 24 years before he retired six years ago, records show.

Miamisburg City Manager Keith Johnson was hired in 2009, being promoted from city planning and development jobs he had held since 1994, according to DDN records.

But that type of longevity is increasingly uncommon, Warshawsky said.

City managers have told Warshawsky and his students that “it has been shifting toward shorter tenures … so you don’t really see that as often, folks who are going to stay for a long period,” he said.

For instance, Dayton has had no fewer than six city managers in the past 30 years. Shelley Dickstein has held that job since 2016 following an interim role, after serving as assistant city manager since 2009, records show.

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Part of the reason for the shorter tenures is the limited number of senior administrative jobs in the public sector and a desire for professional growth, Warshawsky said.

“They often get a position, use that experience and then move elsewhere for another opportunity,” he added.

Another factor for the lack of long-term stability, Warshawsky said, is that city managers in Ohio hold jobs in which “responsibilities are non-political,” but they are appointed by a group of local legislators who are elected.

“So, there is kind of the political component,” he said. “But, of course, you have to implement and speak to what the politically elected officials might want. So, there’s always that tension between the political and the non-political. That’s just the nature of the job.”

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Sometimes, Warshawsky said, longevity in the job is based on the “nature of the governance” in the community.

“In some places, you’re going to find that the council and the city manager get along very well, other places maybe not so much,” he said. “And that’s also going to then reflect how long people stay.”

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