Monday, December 21, 2009

Savannah City Veteran Roanoke's New Manager

Photographer Eric Brady takes a shot of new Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill, flanked by councilmen Sherman Leah and Court Rosen^

Assistant City Manager Brian Townsend and City Manager Darlene Burcham watch the proceedings.^

Here's Darlene Burcham's view of the introduction of her replacement.^

The Morrill family accepts a gift from Mayor David Bowers.^

New Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill with his wife, Kim, sons Declan and Daniel and Mayor David Bowers.


Roanoke City Councilwoman Gwen Mason went right to the heart of the matter. Saying new Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill has been hailed as one “with a calm demeanor,” she cracked, “Council will do its best to test that.”

Indeed. After the past few stormy years with City Manager Darlene Burcham at the helm, council has gained a reputation for a lot of things, but calm demeanors aren’t among them. Burcham retires by mutual agreement early next year and Morrill, the assistant city manager of Savannah, Ga., will take over.

The 47-year-old former Peace Corps volunteer (Ukraine, with his wife, Kim) will begin work at a time, he admits, when “local governments will face a lot of challenges for the next three or four years.” Among those challenges will be severely tightened city and state budgets and a new governor in Virginia who is not inclined to attempt to increase revenues through taxes.

Christopher Paul Morrill starts his service with a salary of $170,000. In Savannah, he worked with a staff of 2,600 and an annual budget of $280 million. “Chris is an experienced local government leader with 24 years of local government management,” says Councilwoman Gwen Mason, who chaired the search committee.

“With his strong economic development successes in Savannah, expertise in financial planning, and a citizen-oriented leadership style, Chris is a perfect fit for Roanoke’s future growth. Each member of Council is impressed with Chris’ experience in infrastructure planning and construction, priority-based budgeting, intergovernmental approach to service delivery, innovation, and neighborhood strengthening. We welcome him and his family to Roanoke.”

“People in Roanoke are really going to like this guy and his nice family,” says Mayor David Bowers. “He’s bright and eager, and we are very excited about starting a new era in Roanoke.”

Morrill began his position as assistant city manager of Savannah in August 2001. During his tenure, he led the Management and Financial Services Bureau with duties that included overseeing financial, human resource and strategic planning, directly supervising 12 departments, coordinating major economic development projects, and leading special projects and analyses.

From 1999 to 2001, he was senior municipal finance advisor to the Southern African National Treasury under a United States Agency for International Development project. In this position, he assisted the South African government with developing local government finance legislation, municipal budget reforms, and capacity-building programs.

He has served as a research and budget director and a senior management for Savannah, a budget analyst for Catawba County, N.C. and a downtown project manager in Lynn, Mass.

“It is an honor to be selected by City Council as Roanoke's new city manager,” says Morrill. “This is a premier community with an outstanding quality of life and a national reputation for progressive, forward-thinking local government. It is also an area of exceptional natural beauty with great neighborhoods, good schools, a vibrant downtown, and friendly people. My family and I are excited about becoming part of the community. I look forward to working with the city council and the whole community to build on Roanoke's past successes.”

Morrill earned a degree in political science from Holy Cross and a master's in public administration from UNC. He completed a three-year fellowship in the Kellogg National Leadership Program, exploring conflict resolution and community building in Peru, China, Northern Ireland and South Africa.

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