Leigh Anne Knight is the first female to be appointed Covington city manager. - Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON - Leigh Anne Knight may be the top official in the city of Covington, but she said making the city run requires a team effort. Knight has been on the job as city manager of Covington for a little more than a month. Her top priorities thus far are being responsive to citizens, employees and elected officials, and making sure city employees know they are valued.
"My philosophy is that whatever situation is out there that needs to be addressed, I need to find the answer for that individual, whether it's me personally, my responsibility to find it, or I delegate it to somebody else," she said. "It is important that every issue gets answered in some manner. That is how respect and rapport builds, whether it's with the mayor and council, citizens or employees."
As finance director, a position Knight still holds for the time being, while the budget process is under way, Knight said she has experience in handling many of the duties required of city manager. She worked with former City Manager Steve Horton to handle various aspects of day-to-day operations of the city. Knight was in charge of preparing the city's approximately $120 million budget the past three years and managing the budget and cash, approving purchase requisitions, analyzing capital project funding and solving day-to-day issues, responsibilities she said have given her "a thorough understanding of the true operations of the City." She has also worked with citizens and customers on matters ranging from utility billing to availability of city services.
In addition, she had already developed relationships with department heads and city staff, helping to make the transition to city manager smooth.
"I've been in management for so long, I've learned over the years that you do basically the best that you can answering the questions as honestly as you can and hopefully finding resolutions to situations when they arise," she said.
Knight said the biggest change in her new role is that she is now responsible for issues that are not finance related and that she reports directly to the City Council and mayor.
She said she is very reliant on city employees.
"This is never something that one person does. Just like it takes a community to raise a child, it takes everybody to make a city work," she said. "All the employees are good, the department heads are great. They do what they need to do to get the job done. I rely on their expertise."
Though the city has endured a reduced tax digest without layoffs or furloughs, a retirement package offered to employees a few years ago resulted in some remaining employees taking on additional responsibilities. Knight said discussions in the past have focused on making sure those employees know they're appreciated, and she wants to find ways to encourage and provide incentives to show employees they are respected and valued.
"I think any time people assume more responsibility, you need to be thankful for that. We tend to forget they're already trained in one area, and if they decide they don't like it (and leave), it would be a big uphill battle to get to where we were," she said.
Knight said she has no big plans to change much related to operations, as the city has been running well, although she may suggest tweaks here and there.
She plans to continue past city leadership's philosophy of teamwork and transparency and availability to the public.
"In order to make the city work internally and externally ... we've got to all work together. Basically having an open door policy - 'We're here to help' - is exactly what we need to be doing," she said.
Knight has a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting from North Georgia College and State University and is a certified public accountant. She first worked as a staff accountant for Phillips and Casto Consultants in Conyers and began her management career in 1992 with Bel Tronics LTD. in Covington as a financial analyst. She has worked with Briscoe and Briscoe, P.C.; Glenn Parker Electrical Contractors and Knight and Tabb Insurance Agency. She was hired as finance director in 2009. She also served as assistant city clerk prior to being appointed city manager.
A Newton native, Knight and her husband Scott have a daughter, Meghann.
"I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead. My goal all along has been to do what is best for the city - the citizens and the customers, because we obviously have both. That's my goal. We are continuing moving forward to do what is best for all parties involved, making sure the decisions we make and the choices we make are ones that are going to put us on the right track for positioning ourselves in the place we need to be years from now," she said.