BY TERRY FLYNN
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NEWPORT -- Newport city commissioners stayed close to home in selecting a new city manager, tapping City Finance Director Phil Ciafardini Thursday night.
Mr. Ciafardini, who has been the leading candidate since City Manager Jim Parsons announced his resignation, is a 38-year-old Newport native and son of a former city police chief of detectives.
"This is really exciting," the University of Kentucky graduate said when he was summoned to City Hall on Thursday night after city commissioners spent more than two hours in executive session.
"I've been a part of this city government for 15 years," Mr. Ciafardini said. "I've seen where we've been, and where we've come, and I see where we are going."
Mayor Tom Guidugli said commissioners spent several hours over the past few days looking at all the possibilities before reaching what he called "a very big decision. This is important for the city's future."
City commissioners will officially vote to approve the appointment of the new city manager at Monday'sregular commission meeting. Mr. Ciafardini, a Newport (Central) Catholic High School graduate who is a certified public
accountant, joined the city in the finance - personnel department right out of college.
"I talked to (former Commissioner) Tom Ferrara, and he told me there was an opening," he said. "I started as a payroll clerk, moved up through the department and became director of finance in 1987."
Under Mr. Parsons, Mr. Ciafardini held the No. 2 position in the city administration and was involved in most aspects of the city's operation.
"We looked at all aspects of the job and took our time in reaching a decision," said City Commissioner Jan Knepshield. "We feel we have the best person for the job, someone who will continue the work started by Jim Parsons."
Mr. Ciafardini, who is married with three young children, said he thought he was a strong candidate from the beginning. "I've helped negotiate deals with developers and been involved in most of the city's business in the past 10 years. I can continue the effort that has been going on. The city won't miss a beat."
Growth issues listed
He said being a native of this city of about 20,000 citizens is especially important because it shows how the city has progressed and that home-grown talent can do the job.
"I think it also says a lot for Jim Parsons that I have learned from him and can step right into the city manager's position," Mr. Ciafardini said. "This is how it should be, with someone groomed over a period of time to take over and have a smooth transition." Mr. Ciafardini said several key issues must continue to be pursued to continue Newport's growth and revitalization.
"We must work for the stabilization of the neighborhoods, and revitalize the housing situation in all areas of town," he said. "The city administration should be the architect for this. "We will continue to work with Monmouth Street and
the downtown business sector. This town was judged for many years by that one street, and we've changed that. We want to bring in new business, both retail and other larger businesses that will employ 100 or more people. We want to see more activity downtown."
Since Mr. Parsons came to Newport in 1982, first as a city solicitor and then city manager starting in 1989, the city has dramatically altered its image from that of the "Sin City" known around the country in the 1940s, '50s and '60s.
The gambling joints and strip clubs are gone, replaced with riverfront restaurants, new office buildings and an aquarium scheduled to open in May.
A 3-D IMAX theater, the Newport on the Levee entertainment center which will include a 20-screen theater complex, and more restaurants also are coming.