Hamilton city manager hired to run Butler County development group

Joshua Smith will also head the city’s new development agency.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith has been hired as chief executive officer for the Butler County Finance Authority, an economic development agency previously called the Butler County Port Authority.

Smith had announced late last year he was leaving the city manager’s job sometime in 2024. His new role with the Butler County group will begin after he assists in Hamilton’s transition to a new city manager, and the formation of the Hamilton Development Finance Agency, which he will also head. All of this is still pending approval by Hamilton City Council.

He has served as city manager since September 2010.

“Mr. Smith brings significant experience in business and economic development to the BCFA, having spearheaded over $1 billion in current and proposed investment to the city of Hamilton over his tenure as city manager,” a release from the group said.

The Butler County Finance Authority said Smith’s knowledge and leadership in attracting business development to Hamilton will be instrumental in his new role as he will now lead the development efforts for all of Butler County.

Mayor Pat Moeller said Hamilton City Council and the city administration have worked over the past several months constructing the Hamilton Development Finance Agency, and after the DFA is officially established by legislation, the city will work with Smith and BCFA as partners for developing and repurposing areas of Hamilton.

“The common thread of both the HDFA and BCFA is that both will be benefiting from the excellent leadership and development and job creation skills of Joshua Smith,” Moeller said.

Hamilton formally started in December the process of creating its own port authority and development finance agency. Though the city did not require the county’s approval to create the Hamilton DFA, Smith did pursue transparency and cooperation and sought approval from the Butler County Commission and Butler County Finance Authority boards. Through that process, the idea of him leading the city and county agencies was brought up, and Smith agreed to take on the dual responsibility.

The new Hamilton-focused entity would actually be a port authority and development finance agency with the sole purpose of focusing on the city’s economic future.

Moeller said they’ll have an internal candidate named as the next city manager within a month, adding that “City Council is actively working on that (process) and are quite often in special meetings and the process will continue.”

Formally creating the Hamilton DFA, Moeller said, City Council is expected to vote on that in either March or April.

Smith told the Journal-News while it would take a few months to transition from Hamilton city manager to the CEO of the BCFA, the first step in his new job would be having one-on-one meetings with each authority director. After that, he’ll meet with stakeholders across Butler County.

“It is important to understand what is important to them, and what they believe should be prioritized in terms of economic development,” he said. “These meetings will also address the strategic plan recently adopted by the county finance authority’s Board of Directors.

“That strategic plan provides a road map with respect to action items for BCFA,” Smith said. “As I meet with the board and key stakeholders, my sense is components of the strategic plan will become prioritized.”

Supporters said Smith’s appointment is a “win-win” for both the city and Butler County, saying, “He will be able to continue assisting the city with its development efforts while expanding his role to the entire county.”

“Today is an important day for the future of Butler County,” said Brad Evans, the Butler County Finance Authority Board of Directors president. “ ... In looking at the expansion of the programs outlined in the Strategic Plan and the skill sets identified for the CEO, it became obvious that Joshua Smith, and all that he has accomplished at the city of Hamilton, was a perfect fit to become BCFA’s the first CEO.”

The BCFA unanimously approved the hiring of Smith, which Evans said “speaks to who he is and what he’s accomplished.”

“When you look at all of what Joshua’s accomplished in the city of Hamilton, his record of success speaks for itself,” Evans said. “Certainly, he is very well connected within the city and within the county, I think he’s highly regarded among some key stakeholders and I certainly think he’s the right guy to lead his forward.”

Smith said he felt privileged to accept the job and wants to “lead impactful development initiatives that will enhance quality of life, foster economic growth, promote employment opportunities, and attract investment throughout Butler County.”

Butler County Commission Vice President Don Dixon said Smith’s hiring “brings outstanding talent and experience and, most importantly, results” countywide.

“His ambition and drive for results will bring focused attention to the county’s economic development initiatives and leverage collective resources of the communities of Butler County to attract catalytic development opportunities and to invest in and exponentially grow our commercial sector base and best-in-class industries,” said Dixon.

Smith has served as Hamilton’s city manager for 14 years and is the highest-paid top municipal executive in the county with a base salary of $234,400 annually, though he is the only city manager in Ohio to oversee four major utilities ― water, wastewater, electric and natural gas.

His starting salary with the Butler County Finance Authority is proposed to be $240,000 a year, though the employment contract negotiation is still ongoing and expected to be finalized ahead of the March 19 BCFA meeting. The Hamilton City Manager said because he’ll get a paycheck from the county, that would free up the money he fundraised to get the Hamilton DFA started. Smith said Tuesday he would need to hire one person to manage the day-to-day operations of the city-focused agency. Smith would provide strategic oversight.

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