March 11, 2019 10:09:54 AM
For Sungman "Simon" Kim, Starkville's growth and its strong ties to Mississippi State University were key factors in his decision to accept the city's offer to become its new community development director.
Kim, who was offered the position on March 5, took a few days mulling the offer before informing city officials of his decision on Thursday.
"One of the things that impressed me the most was Starkville is a growing metropolitan area," said Kim, whose combination of education (two masters and a Ph.D) and experience (30 years in development, most recently as a consultant in Brownsville, Texas) appealed to the board. "The city's relationship with Mississippi State and its research and facilities are definitely an asset, too."
Mayor Lynn Spruill said one of the things she found most appealing about Kim was something he said early in the interview process.
"I was impressed with him in so many ways," Spruill said. "But one of the things that really got my attention, that put him over the top, was that he said he wanted to focus on communication, open communication."
"That will be so important for our development people or builders and our staff," she added. "That really took him to the next level, as far as I'm concerned. I'm ecstatic that he's coming."
On March 6, the Board of Aldermen voted, 5-2, to offer Kim the position at a salary of $88,500, roughly $13,000 more than the city's previous community development director, Buddy Sanders. Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn opposed offering Kim that salary, noting that it is higher to two long-term city department heads.
Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker, who moved to hire Kim and set the salary at the March 5 meeting, said he picked a salary in the middle of the range the board set for the position, which is $78,000 to $98,000.
Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller said he thought the salary was fair, based on Kim's qualifications.
"I don't know that I'd want to pay someone with a Ph.D, two masters degrees, 30 years of experience who has run some fairly large cities the minimum of our salary range," Miller said. "That's just my philosophy. I think it's appropriate and a good thought process to perhaps meet somewhere in the middle."
Kim has 30 years of experience, a Ph.D. and a master's degree in landscape architecture and a master's degree in business administration. He's worked abroad in South Korea and the United Kingdom. Domestically, he's worked in Florida, Virginia and Texas, including his most recent job as the director of development services for the city of South Padre Island, Texas, from May 2013 to December 2017.
Spruill said Kim's official start date will be April 8.
"I'm really excited about the opportunity," Kim said. "One of the first thing I want to do is really get going on grant applications. I feel like there's a lot of development money out there the city should pursue."
Kim said the city's relationship with MSU is particularly strong.
"There's a real collaboration there and that's something you don't see everywhere," Kim said. "I've seen situations where a city and a university just go their own ways, but that's not what I'm seeing (in Starkville). That's a real positive. I think it opens up possibilities for both the city and the university when you have that kind of relationship."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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