William L. “Buzzy” Newman, Jr., says his career in city government is nearing its end. But there are several key projects that he wants to complete before stepping down some time in early to mid-2025.
Newman, who’ll turn 65 in early 2025, said it’s time to slow down for the sake of family.
“I owe it to my wife and my family,” he said. “To spend time with them.”
Newman has been in the city manager position since the summer of 2018. Before that, he worked for about a year at the Henderson Water Utility, and previous to that, he worked as the assistant city manager, a position which he started in 2008. He also worked previously at Methodist Hospital for 18 years.
On top of the to-do list before he goes is to put in place a succession plan for the city manager position and numerous other positions from which employees will retire next year.
Newman said he expects the City Commission to take up the subject of hiring an assistant city manager soon, possibly in December or January.
The city had hired former Henderson Police Department Chief Heath Cox to take on that role in January 2023. In July, the commission approved an agreement to “mutually part” from Cox. According to the terms of the agreement, neither Cox nor city employees were to discuss the reasons that led to the agreement.
Other high-ranking employees set to retire include Human Resources Director Connie Galloway, City Clerk Maree Collins, City Engineer Doug Boom and Finance Director Robert Gunter.
Of the four mentioned, the only position that has been advertised is the finance director’s. That hire should be finalized soon. City officials have said that they want to get a person in place to learn under Gunter before he departs in late February.
For all the positions, Newman said the hires will occur months before a retirement so that, like in the finance director position case, the new employee can get up to speed with the city’s workings and get a handle on upcoming projects.
Part of the reason to get good hires and good training for those new employees revolves around the coming I-69, said Newman, who added that Henderson doesn’t want to “miss the boat” on the opportunities the new interstate could provide.
Sound planning—another on Newmans’ to-do list—for that will be critical, he said. What happens on the edge of town with the interstate will affect what goes on in the downtown area, as well as the East End, and so Newman believes that planning on all fronts must work together to reap the most rewards.
On I-69, he said, “What do we want our community to look like out there?”
From the highway, how are people funneled into the downtown area and how does the inner city also gain traction. Newman said in the coming months, pieces will fall into place and residents will be able to see connectivity with the planning.
“We want to do this right,” Newman said.
Two initiatives already in the public space include a $6.8 million Wathen Lane upgrade, and the commission’s approval for city staff to apply for a Creating Vibrant Communities program grant, a state transportation cabinet initiative that Newman wrote to the commissioners in a recent memo can “serve as a roadmap to actively attract and convey the community’s vision to potential development partners.”
Newman is calling for “controlled growth” and said this mindset could lead to a 10% population increase. He said he’d like to see the city’s population just north of 30,000 in the next decade.
He said the U.S. 60 interchange with I-69, which will be near Tillman-Bethel Road, appears to be a top spot for development. That area—and others, including a tract of city-owned land behind Walmart—could be ideal for hotel development, Newman said.