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City hires grant writer; senior planner leaves
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Update, Fri 9:21 a.m. - Personnel Director Ronnie Cowan said the city will likely wait until Jan. 1 to begin seeking a replacement for Senior Planner Michelle Larsen.

Original Story:

Covington has hired a new grant writer to help the city obtain as much free money as possible.

Randy Conner, a life long resident of Covington with 27 years of experience in commercial banking, was hired this week to fill a position the city has considered adding for two years.

Conner will work with city departments to indentify their areas of need, particularly large capital projects, and will seek out state, federal or private grants to fund those needs.

"I will try to find the funds to make improvements for the city or to do general maintenance to meet needs of the citizens," Conner said. "I’ll be looking for grants or for funds from individual foundations to help us to achieve things, from something as simple new turnout gear for the fire department to projects that may cost several hundred thousand dollars a piece."

Conner said he will also coordinate with the county on joint projects. According to the city’s job description, Conner will not only seek grants, but also keep track of money for any grants that are received. When the position was discussed during this year’s budget cycle, one of the first duties for the new hire would be to oversee the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Conner said most of his financial background comes from working in commercial banking. He mainly helped banks raise capital, and he said that grants are essentially loans that you don’t have to pay back. Conner has worked with the Bank of Covington, now BB&T, for 10 years and with Newton Federal for six years.

Personnel Director Ronnie Cowan said the city had more than 70 applications for the grant writer/financial coordinator position. Conner was selected from a group of four finalists because he had the most up-to-date grant writing training to pair with his significant financial experience.

Conner said he is looking forward to helping his hometown however possible.

"Basically what we’re trying to do is make the city of Covington more attractive to small business development and to improve the quality of life of the citizens, and there are a number of projects and grants available to allow us to do that," Conner said. "I grew up here, and I see a lot of improvement that could be done. With the economy the way it is, we don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around. We have to use grant funds and funds from the federal stimulus package to make needed improvements, to make sure we’re more attractive to business growth."

In other personnel news, City Senior Planner Michelle Larsen resigned Dec. 4 to take a position with the consulting firm The Collaborative Firm.

Larsen had been with the city since June 2008 and was an integral part of the city’s housing efforts, including the NSP and other housing programs and grants.

"Michelle is a very well educated and gifted planner and will be sorely missed," Planning Director Randy Vinson said. "She put a great deal of heart into her efforts on housing related issues and her hard work paid off for the city of Covington. It isn't often that you come across an individual with such talent and passion as she had for these issues. She will be very difficult to replace."

Mayor Kim Carter, who has made improving housing a top priority, echoed those thoughts.

"Michelle always brought a positive, can-do spirit to her work, despite dealing with such negative, blighted housing conditions. We will miss her and know that she will succeed in her new position," she said.

The city has not yet posted the position on its Web site.