Ethan Imhoff

Ethan Imhoff, Johnstown's new city manager, following a Johnstown City Council meeting at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The Cambria County Planning Commission’s executive director and vice chairman of Vision Together 2025 has been hired as Johnstown’s new city manager.

City Council voted 7-0 during a regular monthly meeting on Wednesday to pick Ethan Imhoff for the job.

“I’m just excited to work with this group of people,” Imhoff said during an interview. “It’s a good group of council. It’s a good staff. I’m ready to hit the ground running and continue with all the positive things that are going on.”

Imhoff, who will officially begin the job on Jan. 31, plans to spend time in the upcoming weeks talking with members of the community.

“My priority really is to sit down with (City Council members), get to know them, listen to them, listen to the residents, listen to the staff, take all that in, and then we’ll take it from there,” Imhoff said. “Really, my first priority is just to listen to everything that I need to hear.”

Imhoff worked with Vision Together 2025 and multiple other organizations in Johnstown’s successful effort to secure a $24,448,164 federal Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant for beautification work along the city’s proposed Iron to Arts Corridor.

“I feel like that’s really going to help me to hit the ground running,” Imhoff said. “I have a good network of people who I know in the county and city that will hopefully enable me to move forward in a positive way and get some results done.”

Mayor Frank Janakovic added: “Many of us have served on various boards and commissions and civic groups with Ethan. He’s very familiar with the issues facing the city and possesses what I feel – and council hopefully experiences – (the skills) necessary to shepherd the many projects Johnstown is doing now and in the future.”

Imhoff, whose contract will last through the first Monday of January 2024, will become the city’s 10th full-time or interim city manager since 2014.

For years, council members have contended that multiple factors prevented the hiring or maintaining of quality city managers, including the residency requirement that managers live in the city; the inability to offer a competitive salary; the state-mandated limit on contract durations; and previous in-fighting in municipal government.

However, in November, voters approved a referendum to allow council to remove the residency requirement as part of the search. Thanks, in part, to outside funding sources, Imhoff will be paid $135,000 annually. Council members also frequently compliment themselves in public for how well they work together now.

Municipalities are not permitted to give contracts past the governing body’s next reorganization meeting. Since council just reorganized last week, following the 2021 election, and won’t reorganize again until January 2024, the two-year deal is the longest council can give.

So all the reasons repeatedly given for the frequent turnover in the city manager position are gone.

“I’m thrilled to death,” said Deborah Grass, Johnstown’s coordinator in Pennsylvania’s Act 47 program for distressed municipalities. “I think it will help stabilize the team. We’ve been working on that for a while.”

Imhoff did not say if he plans to relocate from Blair County to the Johnstown region.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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