A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington commission approves hire of finance director with 29 years experience in government

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

The City of Covington took another step forward in its possible restructuring when commissioners approved a new finance director at their legislative meeting Tuesday night.

A late addition to Tuesday night’s agenda, commissioners unanimously approved the hiring of Mohammed Owusu, who is currently serving as a project manager at the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans.

City Manager David Johnston said the job had gone through multiple rounds of searches, as city staff tried to find the right fit for the job. In the latest round, which brought in 27 applicants and was overseen by Commissioners Bill Wells and Tim Downing, all agreed that Owusu stood out.

“He articulated a spirit of the need to create good teamwork within his unit and the management team,” Johnston said.

Prior to joining the board in New Orleans, Owusu compiled 29 years of experience in state and local government roles, including deputy director to the deputy chief administrative officer for finance and administration for the city of Richmond, Va., associate treasurer for the District of Columbia, and debt/innovative finance manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Wells noted he stood out because of his “long-term goals. Not just a week or next year. (He thought) five years down the road.”

Owusu earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and English from the University of Ghana, Legon, and an MBA with a concentration in finance from Texas A&M, according to his bio with the New Orleans board.

In February, Covington’s finance director job was posted online with a salary range of $90,000-$115,000.

Owusu is scheduled to begin in his new position April 30.

Commissioners know how crucial this hire can be. The past decade has revealed its share of financial drama in Covington, including a near-bankruptcy and an embezzlement scandal. And the general fund budget is almost $53 million.

Johnston hopes to restructure the city staff, and he pitched his ideas to the commission in February and March. Part of the plan was to hire more employees and reorganize.

Also Tuesday:

  • Commissioners agreed to partner with Renaissance Covington to apply for a $1 million grant to install a series of “art installations” that will highlight the Pike Street Corridor from Scott and Pike to the interstate. It’s a 3/4 – mile stretch of the community that “could use some investment,” said Katie Meyer, director of Renaissance Covington, which will manage the project. The space includes, among other things, a renaissance area, incubators and an elementary school. According to Economic Development Director Tom West, the partnership is an example of the kinds he’s called for in his new strategic plan. He also said that while the art will be temporary, the effects could be long-lasting, like how the project could help leverage CDBG funding. The grant application, which called for city approval, is due April 19, and asks that applicants use public art to address an urban challenge. Four cities will be selected as finalists in the fall, with a winner to be chosen in 2019. The art would be installed by 2020. Meyer said their vision includes five “installations”: Education, Built Environment, Addiction & Recovery, Community Pride and Aspirations. Each would encourage engagement, possibly with video or other “high-tech” options. Should Covington be chosen, a national search for five separate artists would be undertaken to develop each of the installations.
  • Commissioners approved an order to publish an RFP for the creation of a development code incorporating both zoning and historic preservation regulations. The idea, Tom West said last week, is to help rewrite the city’s zoning ordinance into a form or character-based development code, to provide a more streamlined approach to encourage development and “bring the city into the 21st
  • Commissioners entered into an agreement with Walker Consultants to provide a parking financial feasibility study for $62,400 which would come from the general fund. In March, the city issued an RFP for the study, which “will review the project assumptions and financials of the proposed 700-space parking garage at Duveneck Square and assess the city’s existing on- and off-street parking facilities,” city plans said.
  • Commissioners heard the first reading of an ordinance that would amend section 3.03.05 of the zoning code to allow “restaurant with or without beer, wine or alcohol,” and “retail sales and service, other (not specifically listed above or specifically included herein)” as conditional uses in the “IL-Industrial Limited” zone. Mayor Joe Meyer encouraged interested residents to go online and look at the ordinance here.
  • Commissioners approved an order to hire Donna Kay Wietholter as a part-time code enforcement inspector, which brings the total in the department to three full-time workers and three part-time workers.
  • Commissioners approved an order to authorize a property transfer and maintenance agreement with the Historic Licking Riverside Civic Association for a Little Library in George Rogers Clark Park.

The next Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., April 17 at the Covington City Hall at 20 West Pike St.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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