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BY TOM MITSOFF
Milton Dohoney will have pertinent past experiences to draw upon if he is approved as the next Cincinnati city manager.
Dohoney - named Tuesday as Mayor Mark Mallory's top choice among 22 candidates to fill the vacant manager's position - is the chief administrative officer of the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government, and has previous experience as the top city administrator in Louisville. There, he was part of an administrative team that helped start riverfront re-development.
In both communities, he has been involved in revitalizing older, economically challenged neighborhoods.
"Milton has the exact qualities and background that I was looking for to help take this city to the next level," Mallory said Tuesday in a statement.
The city manager position has been open since Valerie Lemmie resigned last summer. She was hired by Charlie Luken, Mallory's predecessor.
Dave Rager, director of the Cincinnati Water Works, has been acting city manager while a national search was conducted.
If City Council approves Mallory's recommendation, then the mayor would hire Dohoney.
Dohoney was part of Louisville's top management team in the late 1990s, when it guided a plan to transform the blighted industrial area along the river downtown into Waterfront Park, an expansive area of lawns and fountains that has become a favorite recreational spot for locals and visitors alike. Nearby Louisville Slugger Field, home of the minor league Louisville Bats, was part of the project.
More than 1.5 million people a year visit Waterfront Park, according to the city's Web site, and another 643,000 people attended Bats games at the baseball stadium last year.
"There's a residential component there," Dohoney said of a 23-story condominium-apartment tower known as Waterfront Park Place.
The strip is also site of the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural and education facility that opened last year, and will be home to a new basketball area for University of Louisville teams.
Dohoney told The Post that the key to the Louisville riverfront project was "bringing a group of stakeholders together for common purposes, and then pulling it off. When you take on a project such as that, you've got to have committed leadership. It's not something that's going to happen overnight, but when the changes do occur, it will crystallize the identity of the community."
Dohoney said he's not sure if he as city manager would have any specific role to play in Cincinnati's long-delayed riverfront redevelopment project, the Banks, a multi-use neighborhood envisioned between the two stadiums.
"But if there is a role, I will certainly do everything I can to help," he said. "It's a tremendous opportunity to develop the waterfront into more of a destination."
Most of Dohoney's professional experience has been in Louisville, where he started his public-sector career as the city's neighborhood development manager in 1984. He then became neighborhood programs administrator in 1986, and acting director/assistant director of community services in 1988. Eleven years later, he was promoted to deputy mayor - the equivalent of city manager - and had director of public safety added to his responsibilities in 2000.
Dohoney said he was involved in developing an "empowerment zone" strategy for economic development in Louisville, designed to provide continual, long-term improvement of economic conditions in the inner city.
"We took two long-standing housing projects and converted them into mixed-income neighborhoods," he said.
Dohoney also helped start the Louisville Community Development Bank, a certified community development financial institution that concentrates 100 percent of its efforts on revitalizing the economy of economically distressed neighborhoods. The bank makes fair credit loans to businesses that will either relocate to or expand their services within such neighborhoods.
In 2003, Dohoney moved to the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government to take the job of chief administrative officer. While there, Dohoney said he has worked to draw awareness to issues affecting minority businesses, and to spur redevelopment in the inner city.
Dohoney said Cincinnati appeals to him because it's larger than Lexington, but still in the same geographic region. He said he is very familiar with the city, having visited many times.
"Some of the challenges will be the same," Dohoney said, citing economic development as a top priority.
He said he expects to be in Cincinnati Thursday for a special City Council meeting to give members a chance to ask questions about himself. He said he talked to several Council members during the interview process.
Councilwoman Laketa Cole said she was concerned that Dohoney was the only one of the candidates she had met.
"We only have one candidate," she said. "How do you know if you have the best candidate when you have only one to choose from?"
Cole said she and some other Council members won't be able to attend Thursday's meeting with Dohoney.
"It won't matter if we grill him for 10 hours or one hour, he's still in the same boat," she said. "We still only have one candidate to choose from."
But Council Member David Crowley said he was not concerned with the selection process.
"I think this is going to be primarily a relationship between the mayor and the city manager," Crowley said.
"I think (Dohoney) is someone the mayor is confident in, and someone I intend to give a serious look to. I've got some questions for him, and I intend to talk to him on the phone. But I don't think a public interviewing and employment process is what we need."
Crowley said it will likely be up to the mayor when the Dohoney nomination is put to a vote.
"I'm pretty sure (Mallory) wants to move it forward," Crowley said. "While I hope it moves expeditiously, I would hope that it isn't rushed through."
This article was published June 7, 2006, in The Cincinnati Post and The Kentucky Post.
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