On the Job

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From the Williamstown mayors’ seat . . .

By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Rick Skinner has a vision and it involves the future of  Grant County’s largest city.

Skinner found himself in a new role on Jan. 3 when he moved from being a city council member into sitting behind the desk of the Williamstown mayor’s office.

Skinner replaces Glenn Caldwell, who served as mayor for 12 years. Caldwell opted not to run for mayor, but did seek a seat on the city council, which he won in the November election.

Williamstown has 45 employees and operates on a $10 million budget.

Skinner wasted no time in getting to work. He met with all the city’s supervisors and told them he wanted them to develop a vision/mission statement.

“It’s about core values,” he said. “We’re working on what we’re all about and what we stand for as a city.”

Skinner knows his way around the public. He’s spent the last three decades at his business, Skinner Furniture. He also owns Skinner’s Self-Storage.

“I want the city and city government to be professional in appearance,” he said. “That’s important to me.”

Skinner, who is married to Williamstown Schools Superintendent Sally Skinner, spent nearly 40 hours at work in just his first three days on the job.

“I’m just excited and honored to be here,” he said.

One of the items he’s working on should be helpful to city residents and popular, if he can work out the details and get council on board with the plan.

“We’ve got to address the power cost adjustment which appears on utility bills,” he said. “Our base utility rate is comparable to other cities, but when we have to power cost adjustment the bills can get pretty costly.”

Skinner’s proposal is to find a way to limit the power cost adjustment on each bill to no more than 5 percent.

“Last month it was 12. 8 percent and for someone on a fixed income that’s significant so we have to come up with a way to help the resident’s budget for their utility bills,” he said. “We have to be aware of that with every bill that we send out.”

He’s got even loftier goals of nailing down how the city can improve the quality of life for its residents.

“Every city council member has talked about quality of life and how it should be better, so now let’s figure out how to improve it,” Skinner said.

Skinner said of immediate concern is the city’s need to address safety, which means snow removal on streets and sidewalks.

He’s also keeping an eye on the economy, as well as the need to bring more businesses and homes to Williamstown.

Skinner is keenly aware of the possibilities that the Ark Encounter, a proposed religious tourism development that has chosen Williamstown, just off Ky. 36, for a $150 million investment, can bring to the city.

Project developers have been given preliminary approval for state tax incentives.

The city will reap benefits in the form of utilities and taxes on 900 part and full-time employees at the park.

“I’m very much in favor of this project and what it can do for our whole community,” Skinner said.

Skinner’s immediate plans are to keep learning about the new role he’s playing, which includes hiring a new city administrator after Doug Beckham announced his resignation in November.

The city is being assisted in the process by the Northern Kentucky Area Development District. Jan. 31 is the deadline for applications. The top eight candidates will then be interviewed by Skinner and the council. The position will be filled by March, Skinner said.

“I was fortunate to have been on council and working with the same six people for so many years and Glen (Caldwell) helped me by letting me go to some meetings before I took office and I learned a lot from that experience,” he said.

He is also working on plans to extend the city’s downtown decorative light posts to EZY Stop after the new bridge on the south end of town is completed. Skinner said he’d also like to see low-impact lighting installed at the Williamstown Cemetery so it could be utilized for people looking for a safe place to walk.

But no matter how many projects the city undertakes, Skinner said of one thing he’s sure – the city residents are his customers.

“The number one thing – we’ve got to take care of our citizens,” he said. “That’s what keeps me up at night is making sure that our decisions don’t place a hardship on our people.”