WHEELING - The search is on for a new finance director in Wheeling, as Michael Klug announced he plans to retire at the end of August.
Klug, who will turn 65 in about three weeks, said he made the decision after speaking with his family over the weekend, and notified City Manager Robert Herron on Monday. He's held the job for 12 years, since former Mayor Nick Sparachane appointed him to the post in 2002 after previous jobs as chief financial officer of Community Mental Health in St. Clairsville and the Children's Home of Wheeling.
Under Klug, the city established a rainy day fund and built it up to $1 million, with plans to increase it to $2 million over the next five years. The city has also made strides in improving the health of its underfunded police and fire pension programs, largely by funneling revenue from video lottery at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack into the funds as a supplemental contribution since the mid-2000s.
"He's done an excellent job, and his will be difficult shoes to fill," Herron said.
The responsibility for filling those shoes falls to Mayor Andy McKenzie, who according to city charter is responsible for appointing Klug's replacement. McKenzie said the city will issue public notice of the vacancy soon, adding he hasn't spoken with anyone yet.
He said he'll likely be looking for a certified public accountant to fill the post, and while he doesn't have a definite timeline for finding a replacement, he would prefer to have someone in place before Klug leaves.
"He is a quality human being, always truthful, honest and direct," McKenzie said of Klug. "His leadership and insight will surely be missed."
Klug said he's looking forward to having more time to enjoy other pursuits such as fishing, golfing and traveling to various attractions throughout West Virginia.
"It was a family decision. ... All the people here have been wonderful to work with," he said.
Because his combined age and years of service at the time of his retirement will equal only 77, he won't be eligible for the retirement incentive proposed by Herron earlier this week as the city looks to tighten its spending by trimming the size of its work force. Under that program, a retiree whose combined age and service time equals at least 90 years would be eligible to receive a one-time payout equal to one-third of his or her salary.
Although the end is in sight for Klug, there will be plenty to do before his last day. He'll be working on a major revision to the city's budget, based on the $826,000 in spending cuts Herron announced Monday, and he'll also be busy preparing for the city's upcoming audit.
As the city continues to deal with rising pension obligations and employee health insurance premiums, Klug knows whoever is sitting behind his desk come September will have his or her work cut out for them.
"With revenues flattening out and expenses going up, it's going to be a challenge to come up with ways to keep the budget balanced," he said.