City hires banker to fill opening

Randy Conner

Randy Conner

COVINGTON -- When city officials set out to find a financial coordinator/grant writer, they didn't have to look too far.

Lifelong Newton County resident Randy Conner was hired to fill the position in December. Conner has 27 years experience in banking and spent half of his career working at local banks.

During that time, he handled large commercial loans requiring participation between different banks. For 15 years, Conner served as vice president over real estate finance for various banks. Later, he left banking to work for a construction/development company.

All of this experience has given Conner the expertise he needs to procure grants for the city and help to coordinate its finances, he said.

"Every grant has a different format and gives different instructions on how it should be prepared," he said, adding that the most important part of any grant application is having the knowledge of what you're writing about and using appropriate terms.

Conner said his experience handling commercial, construction and development projects and loans has given him that knowledge.

According to Personnel Director Ronnie Cowan, there were 70 applicants for the job, with about 11 having the necessary financial experience.

"Out of those 11 we interviewed, and they were all good candidates, there were two or three that had what I call project management experience and skills akin to grant writing," Cowan said. "Randy took the initiative before he came to work here to attend recent grant management training for federal funds. We felt like he was a good candidate based on his years in banking."

In the short-term, Conner said his attention will likely fall to obtaining federal funding for improvements to the city's water and sewer system.

"We're trying to avoid running into the same problems as large municipalities like the city of Atlanta, which is being fined on a daily basis because its sewer and water infrastructure is old and outdated. Even though we're smaller, we have the same issues as larger municipalities," he said.

In 2010, the city will likely pursue additional Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds from the federal government as well, to purchase, rehabilitate and resell foreclosed properties, Conner said, noting that Mayor Kim Carter has made housing a top priority.

Improving housing and infrastructure is important to attracting business and industry, he said.

"It's vital to improve and maintain the infrastructure and appearance and aesthetic quality of the city of Covington," he said.

Conner is the city's financial coordinator, under the supervision of Finance Director Leigh Anne Knight, who he will assist in better organizing the city's budget and keeping track of costs and expenditures.

"The city of Covington is in good financial condition. The only way to keep it that way is to keep a close eye on your costs and make sure policies and procedures are in place to keep us from having future difficulties," he said.

Conner is married and has four children and several grandchildren. He attends Covington First Baptist Church and is an active supporter of the Newton County Recreation Commission. He is a past member of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee and a past participant in Leadership Newton County.