Curry talks collaboration, defends dismissals

The City of Gainesville needs help from community members to tackle housing, violence and other issues facing citizens, according to interim City Manager Cynthia Curry.

Curry discussed the importance of this city and community collaboration as the featured speaker for GNV4ALL’s general meeting Monday evening.

“It all cannot fall on government—nor should it because we all live in the community,” Curry said.

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Curry said she’d work to set up the long, hard community meetings necessary for collaboration and make the city ready to partner with neighbors, describing herself as someone who leaves it all on the table.

She also noted the “interim” at the beginning of her title. For her, that means the commission could ask her to leave in a week or years, but she said she set about her post at full speed.

Curry added that city services need to be addressed continually no matter who’s in charge—interim or permanent.

“I am a get-things-done person,” Curry said. “I like performance as the lead, particularly in the public space.”

While Gainesville has a beautiful view on the horizon, Curry said issues within city government that impact operations must be addressed.

“There is work that needs to be done in the city under my purview, and that work, quite frankly, has to address many of our internal programs,” Curry said, mentioning finances specifically.

Curry, who joined the city in November, has already started making internal changes.

The Department of Budget and Finance underwent a rebrand to become the Department of Financial Services, adding the position of controller and a support position for contract management.

Both of those positions also attempt to deal with the city’s lack of a certified public accountant in a managerial role.

The financial services department gets support from an outside company, and a memo from Curry to the city commission says a staffing assessment is active and may lead to further changes.

Curry also eliminated all three assistant city manager positions on Jan. 11. Some have publicly criticized the moves, but Curry defended them at the Monday meeting, saying the change was about the approach and getting closer to the people doing the work.

“For me, it was about the ability to move forward in a way that allowed me to get services out into the community in a more streamlined, organized way in terms of impact,” Curry said.

Instead of three assistants who each deal with separate departments, Curry can now go to the source, along with Gainesville Police Department Chief Tony Jones who is filling in as interim chief operating officer and Bobbie Griffith who was appointed executive chief of staff.

Curry said it is the newly merged Office of Strategy, Planning and Innovation that she imagines will interface with community organizations, like GNV4ALL, to build alliances.

“It would just be robbery for us not to figure out a way to have some kind of a steady communication and support wherever we can intersect to make whatever you’re doing better and more impactful,” Curry said.

Curry said one of the exciting parts for her will be taking stock of the people, places and programs in Gainesville in order to figure out how to link the separate entities together.

“Empowerment comes about when there is an opportunity to coordinate and partner with organizations and entities across the community,” Curry said. “That’s when big things happen.”

She pointed to the potential housing agreement between the City of Gainesville and the Gainesville Housing Authority as an example.

“There are many organizations out there that we can connect with, but we have to start somewhere because we, the City of Gainesville, cannot do it in a vacuum,” Curry said. “We can’t do it alone.”

She included GNV4ALL’s upcoming family learning center as another example, saying the entities need to sit and see how the city can support the endeavor.

“It has been a pleasure,” Curry said. “I’m not deterred. I know that hard decision-making is a part of what I do on a daily basis. It always has been in the public space.”

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