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Apr
18
2024
Village Council

Following the Tuesday, Feb. 20 Village Council meeting, Johnnie Burns was officially sworn in as Yellow Springs’ 11th full-time village manager. Since last August, when previous manager Josué Salmerón resigned, Burns has been acting as the interim manager, while at the same time, carrying out his duties as public works director — a position he’s held since 2018. (Photo by Reilly Dixon)

Johnnie Burns sworn in as Yellow Springs village manager

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At the most recent Village Council meeting, held virtually on Tuesday, Feb. 20, Interim Village Manager Johnnie Burns was appointed to permanently fill the manager role, following unanimous approval from Council. He was officially sworn in early Wednesday morning.

Burns’ appointment comes after nearly six months serving in an interim capacity following former village manager Josué Salmerón’s resignation last autumn.

In addition to fulfilling the duties as interim manager, Burns has continued his role as the Village’s public works director — a position he’s held since 2018. Burns has been with the Village since 2014 when he was hired as the electric superintendent.

“I’m up for the challenge and the privilege of moving the Village forward — that everything and everyone is taken care of,” Burns told the News in a follow-up interview.

Burns, a Xenia resident, is Yellow Springs’ 11th full-time manager since the Village adopted the Council-manager form of government in 1952. According to the employment agreement, bundled in a resolution Council approved on Tuesday, Burns will serve an initial five-year term with a starting annual salary of $143,274.20.

“The limbo has been a little crazy,” Burns said, referring to the tenuousness of his interim position. “But we have a lot of great things we’re looking forward to: more housing, better infrastructure, developing the [Center for Business and Education] and bringing more business to town. We have the perfect staff, Council and villagers to get all that done.”

Council members were uniformly enthusiastic to appoint Burns to the permanent manager position.

“This is the right thing to do,” Council President Kevin Stokes said. “I’m excited to take this step forward so that we can continue doing the work of the Village, and to start some things that were probably being held up or slowed down by not having Johnnie in this position.”

Stokes added, “There’s not much more of a test of your ability to do the job, than to actually do the job.”

Council member Brian Housh echoed Stokes’ support, stating he admired Burns’ pragmatism and focus on “getting things done,” such as improving municipal infrastructure and bettering communication between Village staff and Council.

Burns’ appointment deviates from the previous village manager search in 2019, when the Village spent several months conducting rounds of interviews and assessing feedback from community members. According to Council Clerk Judy Kintner, the Village spent approximately $15,000 throughout that search process, covering candidates’ travel and lodging costs, and Salmerón’s eventual relocation fees, among other expenses.

The process for considering Burns for the permanent position was straightforward and much simpler. Last week, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, Village Council held a special meeting wherein, during an executive session, each Council member conducted a one-on-one interview with Burns — evaluating the last six months of his interim managerial work and drilling down on his ongoing priorities, should he be hired.

“There were critical components in what Council wanted to see in the next village manager,” Council member Trish Gustafson said at Tuesday’s regular meeting. “Johnnie met nearly all of those.”

“Continuity for staff is very important, as is the foundational knowledge Johnnie has,” Gustafson said. “It would take years for anyone else who we’d bring into this position to gain the insight he has.”

Housh said that the recent outpouring of community support for Burns’ appointment to the permanent position also played a significant role in affecting Council’s decision. Since the group first convened in 2024, they have received 11 formal letters from village residents encouraging Council to hire Burns.

Notably, a letter of endorsement from the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce appeared in the Feb. 20 Council packet, which stated, in part, “During his tenure with the Village of Yellow Springs, Mr. Burns has demonstrated exceptional qualities that align with the needs and values of our unique community, has an institutional knowledge of the village infrastructure, has built positive relationships with Village staff, community members and businesses alike, and in our opinion is fully capable and equipped to be the next Village Manager of Yellow Springs.”

Burns told the News that he intends to continue his dual work — that is, continuing to serve as the Village public works director while, at the same time, carrying out his managerial duties.

“With the team I have in place at this time, I feel that it’s best,” Burns said.

Burns also said that the efficacy and autonomy of his three department leaders — Streets, Parks and Sewer Foreman Tanner Bussey; Electric and Water Distribution Superintendent Ben Sparks and Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Brad Ault — have allowed Burns to focus less on day-to-day operations, and more on what he described as “the overall vision” for Yellow Springs.

“We are very, very fortunate to have the team members that we do,” Burns said. “That’s a major thing I want to keep focusing on: retaining our great employees, making sure they’re happy, well-paid and motivated to come to work.”

In the spirit of retention, Burns told the News he aims to hold down the manager position for as long as he can — hoping to break former Village Manager Kent Bristol’s record-setting tenure of 15 years.

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One Response to “Johnnie Burns sworn in as Yellow Springs village manager”

  1. Best Wishes says:

    Congratulations! His familiarity with the Village will be a big asset and Springs wisely save a bundle on out of area search! Smart thinking!

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