Middletown promotes two city employees to new positions, increases their salaries by $19,000

Rick McCrabb, Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio
·2 min read

Apr. 10—Two Middletown city employees were recently promoted to newly created positions.

Administrative Services Director Susan H. Cohen, who served as acting city manager for eight months, was appointed assistant city manager, a position that jumped her annual salary 10 percent from $103,959 to $114,080.

Cohen called this an "exciting time in Middletown" due to the new investment and opportunities. She hopes to step back from day-to-day operations and "focus on the bigger picture."

Ashley Combs, former director of planning, was promoted to development services director in the development services department. Her salary also increased 10 percent from $82,712 to $90,576.

Their promotions, along with other appointments, were approved last week by the Middletown city council as part of seven pieces of legislation. Mayor Nicole Condrey was the lone council member to vote against the consent agenda, the first time she has done so this year, she said.

When contacted by the Journal-News about what piece of legislation she voted against, Condrey said "out for respect for the situation" she didn't want to comment to the media.

"I don't want to create more attention to the situation out of respect to the individuals," she said.

She would "welcome" any concerns from Middletown residents about her vote, she said.

City Manager Jim Palenick has said he wanted to prioritize a focus of responsiveness, efficiency and customer service.

"We want to streamline the entire organization and be creative and innovative," he said. "We've not made any wholesale changes, we're just tweaking now."

Palenick said the new Development Services Department would lead efforts to get developments approved and constructed, including planning and zoning, building inspection, and Community Development Block Grants.

He said Cohen will work on special projects and oversee multiple departments. Palenick oversees all administrative departments, and he would put more focus into economic development and development services and several other departments, he said.

"This organization is leaner than any organization I have ever seen," Palenick said.

In 2019, soon after council voted to invoke the City Charter to terminate the employment of City Manager Doug Adkins, Cohen was tapped as acting city manager.

Cohen, 40, received an additional bi-weekly salary of $1,607 for the duties as acting city manager. After Palenick started as city manager in July 2020 Cohen returned to administrative services director.

A Cincinnati native, Cohen and her husband reside in West Chester with their rescue dog.

She is a graduate of the Max M. Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University in business administration with a double major in finance and international business and earned her law degree at Case Western Reserve University.

She also has served as an assistant prosecutor, prosecutor, general counsel and administrative services director for the City of Middletown and an assistant prosecutor in Clinton County.