Running city takes balance, teamwork
Published 10:42 am Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Throughout Kentucky, there are only about 50 people who do what Matt Belcher does.
Belcher is in his fifth year at Winchester’s city manager. As such, Belcher is day-to-day administrator for the city, working with department heads, resident-led committees and boards, the Winchester Board of Commissioners as well as residents within the city.
“As employees of the city, we’re responsible for providing city services, police, EMS, tax collection, Public works,” Belcher said, “and working with the mayor and city commission for the things they want to accomplish. I’m responsible for carrying those out, with the assistance of the various departments.”
Belcher, a native of Pike County, said he has always been interested in local affairs and social studies. After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a master degree in public administration, Belcher worked at the Bluegrass Area Development District helping communities work on their projects.
“I was working with the ADD and was able to get my feet wet working with water, sewer and project management,” Belcher said. “I was really fascinated with local government.”
Belcher spent about six months as Winchester’s interim city manager in 2006, before working for the City of Paris and in economic development in Lincoln County. In May 2013, Belcher returned to Winchester as the city manager, following the retirement of Ken Kerns.
On any given day, Belcher can be involved in dozens of “projects,” which can range from updating a city ordinance to lists of street repairs or capital construction projects.
“The challenge, in my opinion, is you have to understand the big picture and appreciate the nuts and bolts,” he said. “Details matter. You have to step back and get the 30,000-foot view but you have to appreciate people” and the local impact.
The biggest project, without a doubt, is preparing the city budget. It involves months of work with the city’s financial manager and treasurer, input from the department heads, two days of workshop sessions with the city commission and, finally, two readings by the commission, all before June 30 each year.
“The budget is the biggest (project),” he said. “That directs everything we do. I think the biggest thing, aside from the budget, is project oversight and management. That consumes a lot of my time.”
With so many areas of responsibility, there’s no telling which one may need attention on short notice.
“You have to be able to change topics on a dime,” he said. “We may be talking about health insurance one minute and someone may call with a storm water problem.”
The best days, he said, are when things are moving ahead toward completion. That’s not always the case.
“There’s days the phone won’t stop ringing and I can’t keep up with my emails,” he said.
There’s more than enough to keep him busy for quite a while.
“I hope to be here for a good, long time,” he said. “I love it. I love local government. It’s what touches the people. It’s where the rubber meets the road.”