Altoona fills two major in-house positions

Local News

BLAIR COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ) — Two major in-house positions have been filled in the city of Altoona.

In a council meeting Monday night the new city manager and police chief were announced.

After the city manager, Ken Decker was put on administrative leave in early April, council members said both parties have mutually agreed to part ways with a separation agreement.

“He’s receiving 6 months of severance effective April 19th, 2021 with a continued contribution to his section 457 plan that is consistent with his original December 11, 2019 employment agreement with the city, his health care benefits will continue during that period.”

The acting city manager, Omar Strohm will now permanently fill this position.

“Through the good times and the rough times he has been solid the whole time, he knows the city he knows the government operations here and he is definitely qualified and will do a great job as manager,” Vice Mayor Dave Butterbaugh said.

Strohm’s starting salary is $125,000, about a $25,000 raise.

While he no longer is the finance director, for the time being, he is still acting as the personnel director.

Strohm said he is not announcing yet who will be his replacement.

He decided to promote acting Altoona Police Chief Joe Merrill to the full fledge chief, who took over after chief Janice Freehling’s retirement, and city members all seemed to be happy about it.

“Because of his qualifications and he was the best fit for that position,” Strohm said.

“I think you can tell from the round of applause that council is pleased with Omar’s decision,” Altoona Councilman Bruce Kelley said.

The city said hiring people within is a good incentive to show there is an opportunity for career advancement in their organization.

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