Arlington’s new town administrator is a familiar face for anyone who’s visited town hall in since 1997 when Catherine (Cathy) Durant began working there as a clerk.
She became town recorder/treasurer in 1999. She once again expanded her role in April 2015, when she added “interim town administrator” to her résumé, replacing Ed Haley when he left the Arlington position to work as Millington’s town manager.
Initially she was going to do both jobs just for 30-60 days, and she didn’t immediately apply for the permanent position, despite requests from the town’s leaders. Durant believed she could serve the city best as recorder/ treasurer, and she wanted to see who else might have the depth of qualifications to follow in Haley’s footsteps.
“If someone was out there that was better qualified, better suited for the position, I really wanted the town to know that those people were there and that they needed to seriously consider those people,” she said Monday.
The search stretched on for half a year. The mayor and board took that time to nail down the job’s criteria more precisely, and they saw how well Durant was performing. They urged her to accept the role.
At the Sept. 8 board meeting, she was sworn in as town administrator. Until the town appoints a new recorder/treasurer, she will continue filling both her old and new positions.
The frequent legislative changes, the challenges and the chance to serve a town she loves drew Durant to a career in government service. “With the city growing, there is never an opportunity for you not to be learning, and I love to learn. And it’s a challenge. You meet a challenge head on, and you’re never through meeting that challenge.”
Her qualifications include certification as a municipal recorder in 2000 and certification as a municipal finance officer in 2010. By this December, she plans to complete certification as a public administrator as receive annual certification in Tennessee municipal administrator. She has a background in banking and retail, as well as business ownership. She is a member of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks and Recorders and the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).
The role of town administrator involves acting upon the will of the mayor and town board, as well as bringing in her own expertise to make recommendations. “It’s always been an open line of communication between the town administrator and the mayor and board,” she said.
Flexibility, experience and a strong work ethic are an important part of leading Arlington.
“Working in a small city with a small staff, we wear many, many hats, and I’ve always been one who made sure that the town’s liabilities were limited, that the budget was in order, that the audit was fairly stated and correct,” she said. “I’ve worn the hats of overseeing the library, the senior citizens center, special events coordinator, parks and recreation coordinator, all the way down to janitorial responsibilities. So when you work for a small city, you do whatever has to be done at any given time to make sure the city is running and doing a good job going forward.”
Some of her priorities for the town include securing grant money and proceeding with a few road projects, such as widening U.S. 70 from Airline Road, as well as Airline Road from the high school down to Milton Wilson Drive.
She plans to improve the working relationship between the town and the schools, as well as improving the public works facilities and functions. Durant also intends to be accessible and involved as a frequent presence at town events.
She outlined her views on the town’s status and future: Residential growth has been trickling in, but Arlington’s commercial growth is level, without a lot of commercial expansion in recent years.
That’s a mixed blessing, she said. Some residents like the status quo, while others want enhanced services.
“With all this residential growth, you have people coming in that want certain services. They want a level of park and recreation services, they want a level of community service, and in order to fund things at they level we’ve got to have that commercial growth,” she said.
Residential growth doesn’t make money for a town, although it does pay for itself. If Arlington doesn’t pursue more commercial growth, it will remain level with what services it can provide, Durant said. She will support the will of the citizens, the mayor and the board, whether they choose level status or growth.
Personal life, views on town
Durant, who attends Arlington United Methodist Church, has been married to David Durant for 37 years and has two daughters (25 and 29). She has been an Arlington resident for 31 years and describes it as a marvelous place to raise children with safety, excellent education and solid support from churches, neighbors and the city as a whole.
One of her daughters is a nurse, and the other is a teacher. “They chose professions to give back to the communities,” Durant said. “They chose professions where they felt like they could make a difference in the world, and I’m very proud of that. And Arlington is a huge part of that.”
She praised the sense of pride, local identity and small-town feel of Arlington. “You still wave at people when they go by. You still care what happens to your neighbors. You still wish people well when you know that they’ve been ill. You still support those families that have lost loved ones. It is just a very caring community and a very safe community in which to raise a family. And that’s what has kept us here and keeps me wanting what’s best for Arlington.”
During the board’s decision process on what to do with the town administrator’s job, every time a board member would approach Durant, she told them, “All I want you to do is what’s in the best interests of the citizens of the town of Arlington.”
She continued, “And, ultimately, they think that’s what they’ve done. And we’ll have to see where it goes from there.”
Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.