Franklin’s new city manager: ‘Looking forward to get started’

After working for two decades for the city of Franklin, Fire Chief Jonathan Westendorf will become its new city manager next month.

Mayor Brent Centers announced Tuesday that Westendorf will begin the position Jan. 1 to replace Sonny Lewis, who is retiring.

Last week, council interviewed Westendorf and Nathan Cahall, village administrator of Plain City. Westendorf was selected unanimously. He will be formally appointed at Monday’s council meeting.

“Chief Westendorf has dedicated his life to helping others and helping others is what our council is elected to do. This will be a perfect partnership,” Centers said.

Lewis will retire on Dec. 31 after 47 years with Franklin. Prior to Lewis’ appointment as city manager, he served the city as public works director and interim city manager.

“First, Sonny has been a wonderful friend to me and all of us at the Division of Fire & EMS,” Westendorf said. “Let me be clear on this point. If it weren’t for his leadership and support, we would never have had the opportunity to succeed the way we have by moving to a fire-based EMS service. As a result, we are a much stronger organization. His confidence in our desire and ability to serve our citizens was unwavering and I will be forever grateful. I wish him the absolute best in his retirement.”

Westendorf became Franklin’s fire chief in 2000. He has secured and administered more than $3.2 million in federal, state, and local grants among other accomplishments, officials said.

“It has been a tremendous honor to serve Franklin as the chief of Fire & EMS,” he said. “While this move is bittersweet, it is comforting to know there are many exiting challenges ahead. I am looking forward to getting started.”

Westendorf said members of the fire department played an important role in upholding their promise to serve our citizens. He said they care for the community just as they would care for their own family during a time of need.

“It wasn’t a long process but a diligent one,” Centers said. “We narrowed 36 applicants down to eight interviews. After those interviews, we sent two finalists to the City Council for a final interview. Those two interviews lasted hours and there were no topics left off the table.”

Centers said Westendorf’s 20 years of earned trust and proven work ethic with the city helped give him an advantage. Westendorf has already earned a Master’s Degree in public administration and is a candidate for a doctoral degree in public administration.

“The choice was unanimous and the City Council is confident in our decision,” Centers said. “It’s such an exciting time for the City.”

The recent passage of a bond issue for new school construction is one piece of momentum for the city, and Centers said residents can expert more activity in the next two to three years.

“It couldn’t be a more promising time for the city of Franklin,” Centers said. “There’s no doubt in my mind, we made the right choice for the city.”

A 20-year resident of Franklin, Westendorf and his wife are the parents of two daughters.

“I believe this is an exciting time of advancement for the city of Franklin, and I feel honored to continue to play an important role in helping shape what that future will look like for us all,” Westendorf said. “I owe a lot to this community and I will do my absolute best to continue to serve it faithfully well into the future.”

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