The most powerful government employee in Charlotte has announced plans to retire at the end of the year. City Manager Curt Walton says he's ready for a "new adventure" after five years in the position and twenty prior years in other city jobs.
Charlotte has what's called a "weak-mayor" system of government, which means the city's 6,800 employees and $1.7 billion budget are the city manager's responsibility.
Aside from hiring good people, Curt Walton says the best thing he's done for the city since becoming manager in 2007 is to make it operate more like a business.
"Citizens don't always think about this department or that department - they think of the city of Charlotte," says Walton. "So we have de-siloed ourselves over the last few years so that we're making decisions more corporately - instead of 14 departments doing their own business."
That's included the creation of the 3-1-1 phone service people can call for any city concern, rather than having to ring utilities for this or transit for that.
As the city's CEO, Walton - who's 55 - makes about $260,000 a year. That includes a 6 percent pay raise he got this year from his board of directors - the city council.
Walton's spent his entire 27-year career with the city of Charlotte - most of that in jobs related to the budget. That work culminated earlier this year with an unusually large proposal from Walton to raise the property tax rate by 3.6 cents and spend the resulting one billion dollars on roads, sidewalks and development for struggling neighborhoods.
The City Council was poised to approve the plan, but disintegrated into bickering at the last minute. Walton is diplomatic about seeing his work go up in flames.
"It was by far the most unusual process that I've seen, but it didn't hasten my decision (to retire) at all," says Walton.
Had the council approved the plan, it would have been one of Walton's signature achievements as manager. Now he'll be gone before the council takes another stab at approving the capital plan next spring.
Where to? He doesn't know yet, but says it'll definitely be in Charlotte.