Staff Spotlight: Ken Vittum
Ken joined our Executive Transition Assistance team after 32 years working in local government in Virginia and Tennessee. I was excited to learn about his path to executive manager and his recognition as an ICMA Credentialed Manager. Here are a few things we discussed:
Looking back to where you started this journey, where did you think it would lead you?
After trying a career as a teacher and then in social services, I began working on my Masters Degree at East Tennessee State University in City Management. At the time I knew little about local government and really had no concept that I would make a career in this field. The longer I was in the program the more intrigued I became. I also knew I liked smaller communities. Receiving the degree, I took my first position in the small planned community of Norris, Tennessee.
My next move took me to Pearisburg, Virginia. Like Norris, this is a full service community that maintains its own streets and provides library and recreation services. Although my first impression was not very positive, the community became my home and my career. Did I think I would be there for nearly thirty years? No, but there were never any regrets.
What were your biggest accomplishments?
With two downtown revitalization projects; two major wastewater treatment projects; development of a new library, public works facility, and fire station; and many other projects over the years, it is difficult to limit choice to one! Let me tell you about two.
The Town of Pearisburg completed a major boundary adjustment in the 1990’s. This is never an easy change, and it was not the most popular project I was involved in developing. However, in addition to increasing the land area, the adjustment added several subdivisions and an industrial park to the town. More importantly, the vacant land to the east brought needed development and continues to add to the tax base and services needed in the community. In addition to a Wal-Mart shopping center and several restaurants, Giles Carilion Community Hospital has located on the property along with a dialysis clinic and medical offices. The hospital is currently expanding to bring in specialty services and increased physical therapy services. The project is the community’s first large scale Planned Unit Development (PUD) and additional parcels have the potential to grow with the town. Looking back, the struggle in the boundary readjustment was worth the reward in economic viability.
The Whitt Riverbend Park was acquired by Pearisburg and developed as a public recreation facility. Located about 3 miles outside the town limits, the 29-acre park has a mile of frontage on the New River. In addition to camping and picnicking, the park has a new boat landing and paved walking trails. Acquired with very little town funding and several grants, this property protects the scenic river and has become a popular day use and camping area for locals and visitors alike. This is a project I am particularly proud to have been a part of developing. It’s a great example of promoting recreation and improving the quality of life.
What is your favorite job?
I have always enjoyed small towns and the challenges and rewards that they offer. I chose to make my career in two wonderful places despite limited staff and no assistants. I always strived to hire and empower competent individuals in every available position. I have worn many hats in my career and was actively involved in planning and development of every project undertaken. Planning, zoning, personnel, budget, and finance were all part of getting the job done. Serving citizen needs is rewarding and challenging in smaller communities.
What is the value of being an ICMA Credentialed Manager?
Becoming a Credentialed Manager was part of a commitment to the profession and to lifelong learning. Regular self-evaluations using the 360 Tool helped to focus on developing my strengths and focusing on how I was preforming not only in my mind, but more importantly how I was viewed by my employees and the public. Being committed to the profession, lifelong learning, and service to the public is the goal of all managers and the Credentialed Manager program helps to focus and maintain this goal.