Brentwood's incoming city manager has a good plan: Follow the proven path of predecessor
By Skip Anderson
Kirk Bednar will soon take over as city manager of Brentwood, a community that is flourishing despite the recession. Brentwood offers its growing population low property tax rates, outstanding county schools, and picture postcard landscapes peppered with an alluring blend of tree-dense hills, cow-dotted pastures, homes with more square footage than a small hotel, and an abundance of charming colonial and ranch-style homes that are mainstays in the city's older subdivisions – not to mention that the commercial, retail, and dining mecca of Cool Springs is located just across its southern border. This combination of niceties largely accounts for the city's notably high per-capita income and its enviable tax base.
The man who oversaw much of this growth, Mike Walker, is also the man who hired Bednar 12 years ago as assistant city manager. During his tenure, Bednar proved himself to be bright, calculated, diplomatic, and effective. And as his start date of Jan. 26, 2013 approaches, it is clear that he is notably uninterested in redefining Brentwood as a personal monument. Instead, Bednar seems intent to build upon the successes of his predecessor, peppering his recent conversation with the Williamson Herald with decidedly unglamorous phrases such as “winter water needs,” “multi-year projects,” and “sewage treatment.”
Q: What are the key issues the city will address as you take over the reins from Mike Walker as city manager?
A: There are a lot of dollars being spent on transportation right now. Some of that is state and federal money – like to finish the widening of Concord Road to Nolensville Pike. That should start in 2013. We'll pay for the engineering and provide for the right of way, which works well for us so we can be sensitive to our residents and the unique needs of their properties. We design the road and acquire the right of way from property owners. Franklin has similar projects going on right now.
Q: It does. The project to widen Hillsboro Road in Franklin was delayed as the city decided best how to address environmental stipulations that are a factor with accepting TDOT funds.
A: There are certainly some extra strings attached when you accept state funding, and we ran into that on Concord Road in relation to Nashville crayfish in the Mill Creek drainage basin. We had to redesign the road and shift it farther away from a creek, and that cost us significantly more money.
Q: What other projects are on the horizon?
A: We just paid $10 million for 320 acres off Wilson Pike south of Ravenwood High School that we're developing into a park. It has a beautiful and historic antebellum home on it. And we have another $10 million to develop it. We're also looking at a multi-year project to increase our water capacity and to rehabilitate our sewer system.
Q: Is that due to residential growth?
A: Yes. We're unique in Brentwood in that we have to build our capacity well in excess of our winter water needs. If you look at our population's domestic water use in the winter, which is basically bathing and cooking, we're looking at about 3 million gallons per day. During the middle of our drought this July, we were close to 12 million gallons per day due mainly to residential irrigation systems. And Brentwood doesn't have its own water supply, so we have to buy all our water. A lot of our water-capacity projects involve upsizing our pumps and pipes so we can move more and more water around the city.
Q: Brentwood recently worked with the county to provide a $2.5 million tax abatement to prevent Tractor Supply Company from relocating its headquarters. Should we expect to see more deals like that in the future?
A: The bulk of that money is county money; our share is $375,000 over 10 years. The Tractor Supply deal was the first one we contributed to, and it took us a little while to get comfortable with the idea. But the reality is that TSC was considering offers from surrounding counties. I won't say we'll never consider another proposal. But any such deal would require new construction, and there's just not that much undeveloped commercially zoned land. Plus, it would have to be for a corporate headquarters, and add a significant number of new jobs.
Q: The Williamson County Election Commission sued the city of Brentwood over use of its library as an early voting site and lost. The combined legal fees exceed $80,000. Is it a valid perspective to say that this is a political squabble that escalated into a costly feud?
A: I think everyone would have liked to have worked something out without going to court. And we offered alternatives that the Election Commission deemed unacceptable. The Election Commission's argument was that they could use whatever building whenever they wanted, and that was something we could not abdicate authority over. We have always had a good relationship with the county. It's the Election Commission that brought the lawsuit, and they're independent of the county.
Q: And that's an interesting point. The county is required to fund the lawsuit regardless of how expensive the lawsuit and appeal might be. In short, [County Mayor] Rogers Anderson has no choice but to keep writing checks.
A: I'd prefer not to comment on that.
Q: What lessons from Mike Walker will you carry forward?
A: Mike has the ability to quickly grasp the big picture of any situation, and he makes sure that our choices today do not obligate us for something further down the track. I also appreciate his management philosophy – doing more with less, being efficient, and not trying to be all things to all people.
Q: Any closing thoughts?
A: I would like to say that I am very thankful for the City Commission for giving me the opportunity to be city manager. This is a great city. It's primarily residential with high quality-of-life expectations that are balanced very well with commercial developments at appropriate places within the community. It's stable politically, it's stable economically, and it's stable internally in terms of staff.
Posted on: 10/10/2012