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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

BREAKING: Fort Thomas City Administrative Officer to Retire

Don Martin. FTM file. 
City Administrative Officer, Don Martin, has announced his decision to retire from the City of Fort Thomas. Martin notified Mayor Eric Haas about his intent to leave the city two weeks ago, but was not sure of the exact date he would leave his stead as CAO.

Martin is 49 years old. The date he has given for his retirement August 31.
The City Administrative Officer works under the general executive direction of the Mayor. The position implements policy and advises the Mayor in policy formulation and supervises all department heads within the city.

Martin was hired in Fort Thomas on July 1, 2006 and succeeded Jeff Earlywine, who left to become the County Administrator in Boone County. Martin was the City Administrator in Bellevue, Kentucky for 9 years and has been in the public sector for 25 years. Previously he had "bought" five years of time, which puts him at 30 years worked into the public retirement system.

For Martin, he said he had hit a point where working within the constraints of the retirement system didn't allow him to benefit in his role within the city. "Once you get to 30 years, the way the (retirement) system calculates your benefit, you end up working for pennies on the dollar. From the financial perspective, it made sense (to retire) at 30 years," said Martin. "I think Fort Thomas is the premier city in Northern Kentucky. I've heard it said that a bad day in Fort Thomas is like a good day in any other city. It's been a great place to work and I've loved it."

Martin said that he began mulling retirement at 27 years in the system, which is how many is required in the non-hazardous component of public sector work. "Once anyone that gets near that 27-year mark you start to dream a little bit. What it would be like to retire? You run the numbers, but then you also look at whether you still enjoy your job," said Martin.

Mayor Eric Haas said he is bemoaning the fact that he must lead a search for Martin's replacement. "I didn’t want this to happen at all. It wasn't in plans having to deal with having to hire a City Administrative Officer. Don has been great. He's an excellent administrator and I hate to see him go, but totally understand," he said.  "The way the retirement system is set up so, we lose people early into their careers to the system. You can't blame him, but the system doesn't make sense. The system has to change, it's just not sustainable."

Martin said he is most proud to leave behind a city that is in "outstanding financial shape." Martin eliminated the Assistant City Administrator and Recreation Director, which saved the city significant salary and benefits packages. "By maintaining a very conservative budget approach, we’ve been able to keep the city in a very good financial standing. I'm also proud of the improvements we've made to the parks," he said.

Haas agreed that the park systems have improved since Martin was hired and credited the solid finances of the city and a stroke of luck that started it all. "To think that all started with free dirt," said Haas. "The utility companies needed a place to dump fill and we decided , 'Hey, we can rework the stuff.' That turned into a lot of ground work at no cost to the city. It was during the recession so every architect and builder was looking for work and we were borrowing money at interest rates that were next to nothing because the city had good financial stability. "

The process of hiring another City Administrative Officer will be the same as when Martin was hired in 2006. Advertisements will be sent out to a myriad of public agencies to garner candidates from the region, state and nation.

As Mayor, Haas will be the appointing authority. Historically,  the mayor appoints a committee, usually made up of four people to review the top 5-6 candidates. From that committee, Haas will make the appointment and then city council will vote on that appointment.

In 2006 the committee was made up of then-Mayor Mary Brown, Councilman Jim Doepker, Finance Officer, Fred Ewald and Lt. Rich Whitford of the Fort Thomas Police Department. After Earlywine's departure and before Martin was hired, Ewald was instituted as Interim City Administrative Officer.

Haas said once resumes start to come in and a committee has been appointed, the process could be completed by the end of September. It has not been decided if an Interim City Administrative Officer will be appointed. "We're going to have great candidates to choose from," said Haas.

Martin agreed. "It's a very desirable position in a very desirable city."

Martin is leaving behind some projects that he has been working on since he's been hired, namely the VA Homes agreement. "That is one of the frustrating things about the decision to retire, but the timing was never going to be perfect. If I were to wait until the VA Homes project was done, I’m not sure how long I would be here, but I do see light at end of the tunnel on that," he said. Martin also said that he has been working closely with a number of city employees throughout the process, so he feels like he is leaving the city in good hands on that front.

"I've enjoyed working here so much, which is what made it so difficult to leave now," he said.

So what's next?

"I might not shave. Maybe I'll sleep in past 6:00 a.m. Swing on the porch with the dog or watch some birds," said Martin. "When I'm through with that, I'm going to do something. I am not one to sit still."

Qualifications Required: Preferably have a Masters degree in Public Administration or closely related field and significant, increasingly responsible experience in local government management. The ideal candidates will have excellent interpersonal skills, a collaborative management style, experience in administering multi-fund budgets, a commitment to customer service and the ability to establish partnerships and build consensus with elected officials and the community. 

In addition, experience working within a union environment and managing capital improvement projects is a plus. 

Compensation Package: The salary range is $105,000-$125,000, with a city-provided vehicle and excellent fringe benefit package. 


  1. Thanks for the coverage FTM. While I didn't agree with a lot of the policies in place, I respect the coverage. Right down the middle. I am looking forward to see what develops. Best coverage.

  2. U Have 2 Wonder: If others R covering FT & not writing about this, what are their intentions? hmmmmmmmm

  3. FT Matters has pretty much dominated the 41075 coverage - not new