Lexington Mayor-elect Jim Gray on Monday announced the first major appointment to his administration, saying former Urban County Council member Richard Moloney will be the government's new chief administrative officer.
Outgoing Mayor Jim Newberry did not have an official CAO during his administration, although his chief aide, Joe Kelly, essentially filled that role on an informal basis.
Gray had pledged during the election campaign that he would hire a CAO under his Fresh Start Plan.
Gray touted Moloney's qualifications Monday, noting his long experience as a council member; as executive officer of REACH, the affordable housing agency; and as executive director of the state Office of Housing, Buildings and Construction since 2008.
"Richard Moloney knows our government inside and out; he's a seasoned legislator, having served on the city council for 13 years under four different mayors," Gray said.
"People respect Richard, and they say they can talk to him, even those who may be on opposing sides of issues. Employees respect him. He listens well and senses problems before they combust.
"His moral compass is pointed true north. He loves our city."
Although Moloney's state job will continue until the end of the year, he said he'll get busy right away in the afternoons, helping to lay the groundwork for the new administration.
Moloney said he'll help put Gray's transition team together, listen to the concerns of Urban County Government employees, and consider candidates for commissioner and other positions in the new administration.
"I love this city, and we have the greatest employees I've ever been around," Moloney said.
"I think we have a lot of good opportunities ahead, and working with the new mayor I think Lexington is going to go places it has never been before. We're going to bring a lot of good jobs in here, and I'm honored that he's asked me to help him."
Moloney contributed $1,000 to Gray's primary campaign for mayor and another $1,000 to his general election campaign, according to state campaign finance records.
Moloney's salary as CAO hasn't been set.
The chief executive officer — a position established under the Urban County Government charter — is the government's second-ranking official and is responsible for day-to-day governmental operations.
Scotty Baesler did not appoint a CAO during his administration. Pam Miller initially went without a CAO before naming veteran city official Ken Kerns to the job. Teresa Isaac's first CAO, Milton Dohoney, left to become Cincinnati's city manager. When Isaac named Jay Whitehead as his replacement, then-Vice Mayor Mike Scanlan alleged that Whitehead wasn't qualified.
In 2007, Newberry proposed revamping the CAO position, shifting its responsibilities to a new post called senior adviser for management. Joe Kelly, who had been acting as Newberry's closest adviser, was named to the post.
Miller said Monday that having a CAO helped her as mayor.
"Running the Urban County Government is a big job, with constant surprises, constant budgetary issues and lots of administrative details," she said.
"With a CAO, I found it was something of a relief that I didn't have to sign every personnel action and didn't have to do a lot of the nitty-gritty supervision.
"I think it's a good idea to have a CAO. But the difficult issues still come right through to the mayor."
Miller said Moloney knows the government from his years on council but will have to learn the executive side of governmental operations.
Gray said that as mayor he will focus on strategic issues such as jobs creation, which will make it essential to have a CAO devoted to "keeping the trains running on time."