01/23/06 — Huffman looks back at first year

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Huffman looks back at first year

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 23, 2006 1:59 PM

Organization, attention to detail and long-range planning. These qualities are among those City Manager Joe Huffman feels he brings to the table.

Just a week shy of the one-year anniversary of his appointment, Huffman said his experience in the city started off with a warm reception from neighbors and has gotten better each day since.

City Manager Joe Huffman

City Manager Joe Huffman

"I feel adopted," he said. "I have been in communities where it took a couple of years for people to start warming up to me. But when I moved into my house, the first week, I think, before my family even got down here, my neighbors came over and invited me for dinner. To me, that was the nicest thing in the world."

Huffman came to the city after serving as manager of Laurinburg, replacing Richard Slozak, who retired after 18 years as Goldsboro's city manager.

He said he was attracted to the challenges facing the city and took the job hoping he would have a hand in improving the quality of life for Goldsboro's residents.

"I came here for a lot of reasons, but part of it had to do with what was facing the city of Goldsboro," Huffman said. "Here, there are a lot of things that need to take place and people have very high expectations."

And so, in his first year, Huffman said he has been part of facing those challenges head-on, working with the City Council, department heads and staff on numerous projects.

"Looking at the city, when you think about where we're going, what the City Council wants, it all seems to be geared toward making the city look beautiful, something that's the center of attention, a place where people want to live and visit. I'm just glad to be a part of it."

That vision has played out time and time again over the last year, he said, through neighborhood meetings, learning organization and projects including the construction of Goldsboro's new City Hall and Stoney Creek Park.

Even so, Huffman takes no credit for the progress made.

"I'm not foolish enough to think for a minute that one person ever accomplishes anything alone, so I really don't think I can take credit for anything," he said. "I think hopefully I can bring some things to the table, but I have never seen anything no matter how big or small accomplished without more than one person involved."

One of those skills Huffman said he brings to the table is the ability to plan for the future, something staff and residents told him was lacking in previous years.

"In the past it was 'how much money do we have next year,'" he said. "Now, it's about bringing in long-term recommendations and asking (City Council) to make decisions and to start thinking about their impact for a long period of time. What I'm gonna do is show projections for the next 10 years -- here's what things will cost, here is how much revenue is available -- and ask 'what are your priorities.'"

And the future looks bright for the city, Huffman said, adding that new programs, projects and ideas are being nurtured every day. The only question now is how to finance them.

"I'd love to have about $20 million," he said with a slight grin. "But everything else is in place. We just need to come up with a way to fund these programs."

Huffman said he hopes to continue to work with elected officials, staff and residents to create answers to tough questions facing the city. The experience here, he said, has been one of the better in his life.

"I think I'm getting what I need," he said. "I have the support of City Council, and I have a very good understanding of what they expect from me. It has been a very pleasant, good experience to be a part of, and I told my wife, we've got the best situation we've ever had in our lives."