Executive Interview with Deron King

Deron KingWhat initially prompted you to get involved with local government?

I had a desire to be actively engaged in local community activities, including volunteering for food drives and participating in community events. I learned during my high school years that local government has a very direct impact on our quality of life within our community. When I entered college, I majored in Political Science and began studying to become an urban planner. Upon graduating from college, I began my government career in the urban planning field. While serving as a Planner, I would meet with residents and business owners to discuss the proposed rezoning of properties for projects ranging from residential to commercial development uses. From there, my interest in local government continued to grow.

Why did you want to become a city manager?

While serving as the Chief of Staff to a County Commissioner in Fulton County, Georgia, I had an opportunity to witness firsthand how county government operations run on a more intimate level with our citizens and must work in coordination with our cities. I also had an opportunity to meet and work with City Managers during my time serving as Chief of Staff. I then wanted to become a professional who had a direct positive impact on local government operations, so I applied for the position of city manager for the City of Stone Mountain, Georgia. I was offered the City Manager job and truly enjoyed working in the position. I have been extremely fortunate to work in some great communities as a City Manager such as Stone Mountain, Waycross, Forsyth, and East Point, Georgia.

What was the most important part about your job as a City Manager?

I feel the most important part about my job as a City Manager is to empower your team within the organization to have the necessary tools to do their jobs, while also providing leadership in your daily deeds of service to the community.

Which City project are you most proud of during your years as a City Manager?

I am extremely proud of two projects that I must mention. One project was the renovation of the City Auditorium for the City of Waycross, Georgia. This was a facility that had a very rich tradition within the community for hosting numerous events over the years. However, the facility fell into disrepair and was closed for several years. I was so proud to have been a part of the renovation project which now hosts many events planned there each year. However, it is also important to note a second project, the City Hall Project for the City of East Point, Georgia which opened in 2019. For this project, I served as the Project Manager for the design and construction of the facility. This project was vital to the rejuvenation of our downtown community by bringing city government services and activities into the heart of our downtown. With the implementation of this facility, we showed the community that we were leading the way in investing in the revitalization of our downtown.

What are the greatest challenges facing City Managers today?

I feel that there are several areas, and this is not a complete list. Aging infrastructure, roads,
water, sewer maintenance, etc. are problems confronting City Managers in communities
due to the enormous need for maintenance and repair in cities, in addition to the need for providing proper funding. Housing affordability is another area that is confronting
many communities due to rising prices, which can lead to housing insecurity for many
families. We must devise solutions to address this problem because it can lead to another
area of concern, homelessness. Providing proper collaborations amongst our
community partners to address homelessness is vitally important. Also, providing for the
proper technological advancements to address cyber threats is now an important challenge
confronting us today. Employee retention and succession planning are important to
provide continued success within our organization.

What is your favorite way/place to interact with the residents of your City?

I have several favorite ways/places to interact with residents. One is attending and participating in community events and activities ranging from concerts and festivals to food drives. These excellent events provide great opportunities to build long-lasting relationships and collaborations with our residents and businesses. I also enjoy interacting with residents at
community meetings, which could be held monthly within the community. I also enjoy visiting
businesses and attending key business meetings.

What is the role of a City Manager in upholding the public’s trust in local government?

The role of the City Manager is to empower your residents to be active participants in our local government by providing opportunities for citizen engagement whenever possible. We can provide this by having regular updates on all aspects of our government services. This ranges from the development of our annual operating budget to receiving their input on the development and status of key projects and programs. By taking advantage of these opportunities for citizen engagement, you are developing an organization that is operating transparently.

How are cities shaping the future of your State?

Cities are extremely vital for shaping the future of our State, especially in terms of business and economic growth. Similar to the State, many cities are offering incentives for not only providing for business retention but also making our communities attractive to businesses seeking to locate to our local communities. It is vitally important that both the State and cities work together to offer incentives to attract new businesses as well as provide support to our businesses currently located within our communities. As our cities prosper in business growth, new jobs are created, and it has a ripple effect on our local economies throughout the State.

When you’re not busy working, how do you like to spend your time? What hobbies do you have?

I like to spend time with my family and travel to visit new places. I love to bowl as a hobby and spend time going to football games.

What has been one of your greatest professional challenges, and how did you address it?

One of my greatest professional challenges was providing for no layoffs while operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. As was the case for most communities, while serving with the City of East Point, Georgia, we had to trim down the list of proposed projects we were undertaking during the pandemic. As a full-service City that provided both electric as well as water and sewer services, we elected not to cut off any resident or business utilities during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, we elected not to lay off or furlough any employees during this period. We successfully made it through this difficult period by tightening our belts budgetarily while not sacrificing the provision of city services. We also were able to sustain our City’s financial vitality due to having a strong fund balance and exercising fiscal restraint in previous fiscal years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What has your work in public service taught you?

Working within public service has taught me you can have a positive impact on the growth and development of local communities and leave a lasting legacy for future generations to come. I have been fortunate to have worked with excellent city staff, elected officials, residents and business owners within the communities that I have had the honor and privilege to serve in my public career. I owe a debt of gratitude to all factions within the local communities in which I have served, to be able to make an impact and improve the quality of life. I have learned that everyone can play a vital role in the improvement of the quality of life in the community in which they live.

What book is on your nightstand right now?

Along with having a copy of the Bible on my nightstand, I also have a copy of a book by the late General Colin Powell titled “It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership”.