New city manager is here to stay

Sean Joseph

Ruller can’t wait to work with university

Dave Ruller, the new Kent city manager, stands in front of his new office. Ruller says he is excited about working in a university town.

Credit: Sean Joseph

Many Kent residents do not stick around more than four or five years, but new City Manager Dave Ruller has made this city a destination rather than a point of departure.

“God, community and council willing, I’ll stay here as long as they’ll let me,” Ruller said.

He and his wife, Jackie, agreed this is the last time they will move with their kids, Ruller said. The Rullers have two children: Michael, 10, and Rachel, 8.

Ruller said he can’t wait to start working with the university, and the fact that Kent is a college town made him want to come here in the first place.

“University cities have the vibrancy, energy and youthful feeling that I never want to lose,” Ruller said. “Learning is a way of life for me and where else is that better represented than in a university town?”

Ruller is a lifelong learner, with books all over his house. He said he wants to find a place for himself back on a college campus, possibly teaching, someday.

He would like to see closer interactions between the city and university and get students more involved in city government in Kent. Though, he said, he is not presumptuous enough to have mapped out goals before he came to Kent and needs to listen to what the city needs.

“Everywhere I’ve ever worked has always had issues,” Ruller said. “That’s just the nature of the beast.”

Ruller and his family moved to Kent from Kingsport, Tenn., where he had been the assistant city manager for Public Works for five years. Kingsport City Manager Ray Griffin said Ruller is a great leader and team player with a solid work ethic.

“(Ruller’s) ego was always in check,” Griffin said. “He was there to serve a team and wasn’t focused on getting credit for himself.”

Ruller was responsible for the largest staff in the city and made the Public Works department a prominent part of the city government, Griffin said. The Public Works department included water and waste water treatment, engineering, street maintenance, grounds and facility maintenance among other things.

“(Ruller) was able to bring a great deal of positive regard to Public Works and turned it into a respected organization,” Griffin said. “He lead the way in effort and quality initiatives.”

Ruller said he jumped at the opportunity to work in Kent. He thought fate was involved because when Kent City Council decided to interview their top three choices Ruller was ranked fourth until one of the top candidates dropped out.

Kingsport hated losing Ruller, but Griffin said he was proud to see him get this new position.

“Something I’ll miss about the South are the mild winters, but I’m used to a lot of snow,” said Ruller, who was born and raised in Rochester, NY. “I am also very passionate about mountain biking, but will probably have to take up street biking in Ohio.”

He has spent a lot of time trying to understand what makes a great city and learned that each city has to discover its own voice, Ruller said.

“(Kent) can’t try to be something it’s not. We have to embrace our assets and leverage that into community prosperity,” he said. “The things every community looks for are here.”

Ruller said he wants to embrace the student population and hear what they have to say. He hopes to add blogs to the city’s Web site to make it a portal to community information flowing in two directions.

Kent City Council welcomed Ruller to his first meeting on June 15. Mayor John Fender said he can’t wait to work with Ruller and said it was a very exciting time for the city.

“There is no better opportunity for a city manager to come into than what is currently going on in the city of Kent,” said Councilman Garret Ferrara.

Kent deserves the best, Ruller said.

“I don’t want to be a part of a place that aims low,” Ruller said. “I want to be in a city with high expectations.”

Contact off-campus reporter Sean Joseph at [email protected].