Khumalo praises Watertown at public forum for city manager job

City Manager Norman Khumalo took part in a public forum in Watertown on Monday as part of his bid for city manager.

Khumalo, one of three finalists, did not explain why he was considering leaving Hopkinton after 13 years as mayor, but he did explain what appeals to him about Watertown.

Khumalo highlighted the town’s financial health, pointing to its AAA bond rating (similar to Hopkinton) and fully funded pension system. He also indicated that the city is forward-thinking.

“It is clear that you are committed to planning and thinking about the future of this community,” he said. “Historically, you can see your planning processes going backwards and forwards. This community has always prided itself on planning for its future. That’s why, as a city planner, I turned to the city of Watertown when the Massachusetts got really excited about mixed-use development, because you do it so well.

“You have also chosen to be a leader in the field of DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion], sustainability and own initiatives. And finally, you are a leader because you support your people. There are clear demonstrations on your website of your community’s commitment to your town hall staff. … You have dedicated and committed volunteer teams as well as your paid staff. I would like to be part of this team.

“And then thirdly, the issues that you’re working on, preserving financial health and stability, tackling affordable housing, working on public transportation, working on climate change and the environment, those are issues that I care about. also at heart. Reading the citizen consultation on the role of the City Manager here in Watertown, it was pretty clear that the community wants to engage on these topics. And from my point of view, these are things that are close to my heart. I want to share with you the burden of developing a dialogue that will not only provide solutions for now, but for the future.

Khumalo answered questions from locals and noted his roots, sharing that he was an urban planner for the city of Bulawayo in his home country of Zimbabwe. Since his emigration to America, he has worked in a few communities in Massachusetts.

“I don’t come here saying – if I get hired – that I have all the answers,” Khumalo said. “I never believed that. I never take myself seriously. I want to be part of a larger team, have the chance to be the facilitator and also share my experiences that I have acquired during my career here in the United States and around the world.

Another round of talks – this time with the city council – is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m.

The other finalists are John Curran, who is the city manager of Billerica, and George Proakis, who is the executive director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development of Somerville. The position opened with the resignation of Michael Driscoll in January.

Melvin B. Baillie