He started as a trash hauler in 1973. Now, he’s retiring as Franklin’s city manager

Howard “Sonny” Lewis, will be retiring on Dec. 31 after 47 years of service to the city of Franklin. Lewis started as an 18-year-old street department worker and rose through the ranks to public works director and city manager. FILE PHOTO

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Howard “Sonny” Lewis, will be retiring on Dec. 31 after 47 years of service to the city of Franklin. Lewis started as an 18-year-old street department worker and rose through the ranks to public works director and city manager. FILE PHOTO

After 47 years serving the city of Franklin, City Manager Sonny Lewis will be retiring at the end of the year.

Lewis, 68, said the coronavirus pandemic was a key reason for his decision to retire so he could spend more time with his family and visiting his grandchildren in San Diego, Calif. He said the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic have prevented him from travelling to California twice this year.

Lewis moved with his family to Franklin in 1967 after living in Morgan County, Ky. He graduated from Franklin High School in 1970.

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After graduation, Lewis said he went to college for a couple of years but never graduated. He worked for Franklin Twp. for about a year, and he joined Franklin as a public works employee in April 1973, hauling trash

Two years later, he was promoted water/sewer superintendent in 1975 and to public works director in 1985. After serving as interim city manager beginning in 2011, he became the permanent city manager. He continued in the dual role of city manager and public works director for another three years.

Lewis notified council of his intention to retire a few weeks ago and the city posted the position this week, seeking applications until Oct. 31. The salary range is $105,000 to $120,000.

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“When I took over (as city manager), I said I would do it for a few years,” he said. “It’s a tough job at times, but there are a lot of rewards to it.”

Lewis said he will miss the people he has worked with throughout the city over the years and considers many of the city employees as family.

“The relationships that were built, you can’t put a value on it,” Lewis said. “Our people work well with neighboring cities and Warren County officials. Thankfully, we helped each other out.”

When Lewis took over as city manager, two police officers were laid off and the city had not been able to do any paving projects for three to four years.

During his first year as city manager, the city surveyed residents, and he learned they wanted a strong police department, good roads and the community swimming pool open. With that information, the city passed a 0.5% income tax increase.

In his second year, Franklin withdrew from the Joint Emergency Medical Services District and expanded the city fire department with EMS services, which he said “was a great accomplishment.”

Lewis also wanted to improve the quality of life for residents which included fireworks, National Night Out, Movies in the Park and other community events. In addition, the weekly Farmers Market was started.

“That has been a great success as people can see their friends and neighbors every Saturday morning at the city building,” he said.

Another major project that will be completed soon will be the bike path extension that Franklin and Middletown will be working on this fall.

After focusing a lot of time with staff, Lewis said another bike path will connect Franklin Community Park to Hazel Woods Park in Springboro park system is planned in two years.

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