Nolensville's new Town Administrator Donald Anthony has taken on the challenge task of taking on day-to-day operations of the small but growing town in a year that could reshape the structure and power of government in Nolensville.
The position has been empty since previous Town Administrator Scott Collins vacated the position in February after just one month on the job, reflecting a pattern of vacancies.
Anthony has worked as the town's Planning Director since October 2019.
The hiring process was shaped by candidates who dropped in and out of consideration or took jobs elsewhere, but Anthony has hit the ground running, working first and foremost, he said, on communication.
“Right now communicating better with the public is a huge part of my job, communicating with the board members, trying to get everybody on the same page,” Anthony said. “There are, of course, some big issues that we are going to have to tackle over the next few months and those are fire protection and emergency services, streets and then we have to work towards recovering from this COVID budget situation. We’ve had to cut our budget, and we have a lot of concerns about small businesses in town and we’re going to have to do a lot of work to get ourselves in a better condition than we are right now.”
Anthony and the town staff has already restarted the town's social media presence, is working on revamping the town’s website and issuing weekly reports on the happenings in and around town, moves that Anthony said are both practical and help with transparency and trust.
“Going back, again, to communicating with people, and letting people know that there’s nothing secretive going on, that we’re trying to be transparent, that’s going to be the absolute biggest thing that we can do,” Anthony said.
Anthony's presence within town hall over the past nine months may prove to be a benefit to his ability to get things done, especially as the issues of the future workings of the town gain even more attention during the already energized election year.
“What people know about me is that I’m very plain-spoken and straightforward with you, and that’s been my practice for pretty much my entire career,” Anthony said. “So I think that people have a certain comfort level with that — They know that even if they disagree with me on something, I’m always going to give them the straight story and not try to skirt around or anything like that.”
Regardless of the election year, and the citizen-led movement to change the town's government structure that will now be voted on in August, as well as a recent shakeup of BOMA, Anthony said he and the town staff are focused on the work ahead.
“We are trying to move the town forward in every possible way that we can without regard for what’s going to happen in a political election,” Anthony said. “I’m not a politician, the employees in town hall are not politicians, we have a job to do and so we’re going to try and do that job regardless of who sits on the board.”
For the remainder of 2020 Anthony said that his focus is on the budget, which like many municipalities, is now facing the growing uncertainties around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“For the remainder of the year I want to work with our board on some budgetary issues, particularly figuring out a good fund balance policy, which is how much we should be maintaining in a reserve fund, help them figure out if whether any kind of change to our tax structure is necessary,” Anthony said. “And then help them prioritize what exactly we want to fund and how much we want to fund those things, that is what I’m very much focused on right now — how the town spends its money and what our priories are.”
With the concerns around the pandemic comes the possibility of the loss of small businesses, and Anthony said that they are looking at grants and other opportunities to support small businesses during these uncertain times.
“I think grants are going to play a major role in that, and I think that better communicating with our small businesses, getting the word out about them, about Nolensville, trying to draw more people here to spend more money here will be a big help as well,” Anthony said.
Anthony said that throughout his two-year contract, he will be working on a variety of longterm problems which have been discussed at length in meetings and in the public, but many of which have made little progress.
“As town administrator for the next two years and looking further out, of course I serve at the pleasure of the board so my first responsibility is to do whatever it is that they ask me to do,” Anthony said. “Whatever their priorities are become my priorities as well, but I want to continue to work on fiscal responsibility, infrastructure improvement, on boosting our emergency services.”
Over the next few weeks Anthony said that he plans to work with BOMA on a five-year plan for fire services, utilizing an existing Municipal Technical Advisory Service study.
“This have been shelved for a while, but we’re going to refer back to it and figure out which parts of it are still relevant and figure out an implementation schedule for that so hopefully we’ll come up with a five-year plan and figure out how to fund that plan,” Anthony said.
Anthony said that he plans to tackle infrastructure issues by working with an engineering firm to get an inventory of all of the streets in town, learn their conditions and then put them on a regular maintenance schedule.
And while the job is no doubt a challenge, Anthony said that a challenge is what he's looking for as he plans to prioritize the needs of the town by identifying the issues with consideration and input from the public, BOMA and department heads.
“At this point in my career I’m looking for things that are interesting and challenging. That to me is number one in a job and that’s exactly what this is going to pose for some time,” Anthony said. “It is a big task, it is a big undertaking, especially at this time tin the town’s history, but I wouldn’t have taken the job otherwise.”