December 31, 2003 - Durham Herald Sun: Iran RPCV Sonna Loewenthal retires as Chapel Hill Assistant Town Manager

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Iran: Peace Corps Iran : The Peace Corps in Iran: December 31, 2003 - Durham Herald Sun: Iran RPCV Sonna Loewenthal retires as Chapel Hill Assistant Town Manager

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Iran RPCV Sonna Loewenthal retires as Chapel Hill Assistant Town Manager

Iran RPCV Sonna Loewenthal retires as Chapel Hill Assistant Town Manager

New year to bring changes in town staff

BY ROB SHAPARD : The Herald-Sun
Dec 30, 2003 : 8:55 pm ET

CHAPEL HILL -- The town will start the new year with changes in three top positions, including the retirement of long-time employees Jim Baker and Sonna Loewenthal.

Today will be the last day for Loewenthal in her full-time position as assistant town manager, although she'll keep working for the town on a contract basis until her replacement is hired.

"I have very mixed feelings," Loewenthal said Tuesday. "I feel sorry to be leaving a wonderful organization. I've worked with good people for 22 years here, and I will miss them."

But she said she's also excited to delve into a new career -- teaching English as a second language to students in the local schools.

Loewenthal taught ESL from 1968 to '71, when she was in the Peace Corps in Iran, and she's thought for several years about doing more teaching.

Loewenthal started work in 1981 as assistant town manager in Chapel Hill, around the same time that Baker became the town's finance director. They both came from Carrboro, where Loewenthal had been planning director and Baker was finance director.

Baker officially retired from his Chapel Hill job at the end of November, and he's spent the past month working for the state Department of Treasury in Raleigh.

The third change for the town's staff is in the job title of Florentine Miller, who currently is an assistant town manager, along with Loewenthal. Starting Jan. 1, Miller will be deputy town manager.

Miller has been an assistant town manager in Chapel Hill since 1989, and she will continue with many of the same basic duties. When he asked the Town Council to approve the title change, Town Manager Cal Horton said it was largely in recognition of Miller's position as the senior assistant manager after Loewenthal's departure.

"I feel fortunate that [Horton] has been willing to recommend that my title be changed to deputy," Miller said. "For members of our profession, it's a recognition of an increasing level of responsibility."

She came to Chapel Hill from Loudon County, Va., where she was assistant county administrator. Miller's annual salary will remain at $104,129 with the title change, Human Resources Director Pam Eastwood said.

Miller said she felt that she and Loewenthal had formed a good team, along with Horton, and that she would miss working with Loewenthal. Since Loewenthal's maiden name was Miller, she said some of their colleagues jokingly called them "the Miller twins."

"[Loewenthal] is a wonderful person and supportive person to work with," Miller said. "We've been a very good team in working together on hard projects. We have the same goals, as far as providing good services to the citizens. She's dedicated, highly energetic and cares tremendously about the town and the employees."

Loewenthal also was earning $104,129 as assistant town manager.

She focused in part on overseeing capital projects, such as the new public works and transit facility the town will build over the next two years. With a current budget of about $42 million, the Town Operations Center will be the largest capital project in the town's history.

The person who eventually fills Loewenthal's former position will have the formal title of assistant town manager for facilities planning and development, Miller said.

Loewenthal has worked in local government for 30 years. In Carrboro, she was interim town manager from May 1980 to January 1981, and she had that same title in Chapel Hill for about seven months in 1990, before Horton was hired.

Loewenthal pointed to the response of her co-workers and others in the aftermath of Hurricane Fran in 1996 as a highlight of the last 22 years. Her strongest impression from that time was how dedicated staff members were in getting to their jobs and working long hours, because they knew that municipal services were needed more than ever after that storm.

"I've always been proud to work with town employees, [but] everybody outdid themselves during Fran," she said. "We had people who had to saw their way out of their driveways."

In the town's Finance Department, Kay Johnson has been working as interim director since Baker's departure last month.

Baker, a native of Rocky Mount, worked 32 years in local government, and was able to retire with full benefits and still move to another job. He was earning $91,553 per year with the town, Eastwood said.

Baker now is commuting to Raleigh to work as an assistant director of debt management in the treasurer's office. The job makes him part of the staff of the Local Government Commission, and it puts Baker on the other side of working with local governments like Chapel Hill's, which are required to ask the LGC to approve plans for bond issues and other financing.

For the first time in more than two decades, Baker, 59, won't start in January with initial work on Chapel Hill's annual budget. The council passed a budget this year for 2003-04 that included no increase in property taxes.

"I certainly enjoyed all my years with the town, 22 years' worth, and I feel very good about the service there, but I was ready to move on to a new challenge," Baker said Tuesday. "I miss all my co-workers. It's a great group of people.

"Without question, I feel the town is in the best financial shape it's ever been in," he said, when asked about the town's finances. "We were able to get the town's bond rating up to a triple-A, the highest rating you can get. Our fund balances are higher than they've ever been, and the town operates very efficiently. I just feel good about what's been accomplished in the last 20 years."

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Story Source: Durham Herald Sun

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Iran; Town Management



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