SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Jay Melder, the assistant city administrator in Washington, D.C., will have a new job on September 10.
He was selected to serve as the city manager of Savannah Thursday night by a unanimous vote of the council.
“I’m very excited and was really honored and humbled by the mayor and the city’s council’s vote of confidence, and am just excited to get to Savannah to get to work,” said Melder as he talked with WSAV via Zoom from the nation’s capital.
Melder said he wants to work with the council on priorities important to the city, but also to him. And while Savannah may be smaller than D.C., he says there are similar issues here.
“When you look at some of the issues facing Savannah and some of the priorities, whether it be increased affordable housing, reduced crime, eradicating gun violence or reducing poverty, especially among children, those are the things that we’ve been working on in D.C. and that I have worked on for seven years,” Melder said.
He certainly agrees the above list is a hefty one.
“These are incredibly challenging issues, I think, but they’re not ‘unsolvable.’ They’re entrenched, certainly, and they’re very difficult to navigate,” said Melder. “And it’s going to take more than what the city has, it will take a lot of coordination with other partners, and everybody has to be a part of that solution.”
Melder says he’s anxious to get out into neighborhoods and meet people.
“To get to know the neighborhoods and get to know the issues and the anxieties and the hopes of residents, everyday residents of Savannah. And hopefully, with the mayor and council to translate those anxieties and hopes into policies and programs that can really start to deliver,” he told us.
In terms of crime in Savannah, Melder said “public safety is a whole of government response.”
He sees the city manager’s role as being integral to the effort to lower crime, in terms of providing resources and working with partners.
“So that’s where I really think the city manager’s role is integral to public safety, i.e., making sure there are other players and other resources toward the public safety effort,” said Melder.
Melder says he is an avid biker and looking forward to exploring Savannah and its biking trails. He also says he hopes this is the beginning of a “long tenure” in terms of the position.
That may make many on the council happy, as there have been several city managers in recent years, most staying about two years.
See more of Melder’s interview in the video below:
Michael Brown, a former city manager who also came back to serve as interim city manager is stepping down before Melder gets on board. No reason was given for Brown’s resignation at this time, except that his last day is July 30.
Heath Lloyd, the assistant city manager in Savannah, has been named interim city manager until Melder can take over.