Jim Arndt seeks to leave a positive impact on communities he’s served throughout his career in local government, and he’s now leaving Paducah after three years of guiding its ship as city manager, working to move the city forward. “We really had an impact on customer experience and we really made a tremendous impact on
Jim Arndt seeks to leave a positive impact on communities he’s served throughout his career in local government, and he’s now leaving Paducah after three years of guiding its ship as city manager, working to move the city forward.
“We really had an impact on customer experience and we really made a tremendous impact on the creation of team, and broke down the silos, and really — departments are working together, jiving together,” he told The Sun.
“My last leadership retreat was (last week), and they all talked about the significant changes that have occurred over the last three years and that there’s this sense of team that everybody’s involved, and included, and work with one another, and enjoy doing so.”
The Illinois native came to Paducah in 2018 with roughly 14 years of local government experience in Illinois, Missouri and Ohio communities. He had also served three years in the U.S. Army and six years as a police officer.
“I wanted to be able to get more involved, provide different facets of public service for the cities, and really aspired to help the cities grow, help the cities change for good and have just a productive impact,” he told The Sun, looking back on why he went into city management.
As Arndt views it: The federal government gets the fame. The state government gets the blame and the local government is where it gets done.
“We’re the ones that are responsible for the rainfall when it comes, the pot holes when they’re there,” he said. “We’re responsible to make sure that the toilets flush, the water keeps flowing and the power turns on when you flip the switch, and so, we have a lot of intense responsibilities that are laid upon local government.”
In coming to Paducah, Arndt said he was attracted by the “pro-growth mindset” of the commission and the energy and enthusiasm of then-mayor Brandi Harless. A part of the job is enacting the vision of elected officials.
Harless, who was mayor for most of Arndt’s time in Paducah, described him as a “servant leader.”
“I feel like the entire time Jim has been here — he really embraced this idea that we wanted to get aggressive with growth and change,” she told The Sun.
“I feel like he really embraced that and for the most part, his entire time has just been him pushing for that. He is such a hard worker. He is so disciplined and he just didn’t take his eye off that ball.”
Commissioner Sandra Wilson also had praise for Arndt, and remembered his interview for the job. She was on the interview panel and he came in and “owned the room.”
“We’ve laughed about it,” she told The Sun. “I think I made the comment that day — I just wanted him to ‘do something,’ and I just feel like he has. He’s certainly has been a great city leader. He’s been committed to making this a great community and he’s just a genuinely good person.”
She wishes him the very best.
“I certainly understand when you have the feeling that you want to be closer to your family, especially grandchildren, and he has twin grandchildren up near where he’ll be living now and his family there,” she added.
“I understand that and just wish him the best. I was really sad he’s leaving because I think he’s done a really good job.”
The appreciation is mutual.
“I always tell people that Commissioner Wilson’s my favorite commissioner,” he said. “I like her a lot. She’s probably one of the most dynamic elected officials I’ve ever worked with and I hold her in high esteem.”
Upon reflection of his work, Arndt was proud of many things, whether it was setting a culture and working on a sense of team, or the emphasis on customer experience at City Hall and helping to create a strategic plan.
He’s also excited about projects that happened or are in the works, including Greenway Trail improvements, the BUILD grant project at the riverfront and the “transformational” adoption of the Tax Increment Financing district.
Arndt had some challenges too, such as the recreation and aquatic center project that was scrapped earlier this year, after it was put on hold in 2020.
“Another project that I was proud of, which also was kind of one of the disappointments of my career was the indoor facility — the indoor aquatic facility because we really worked hard on that,” he added.
“In fact, I reflected upon that in my journal the other day about how much time, energy, effort we put into that project and that was just disintegrated. I look back about what I could have did differently, what I should have done differently and how could we have done this because it’s an amazing project for the community.”
However, he appears to find a silver lining in this.
“They are pursuing the partnership with the county, which I think is always great when you can partner with your local government brothers and sisters, and doing a joint project with the outdoor recreation facility and that’s going to be fantastic as well,” he said.
“I think, all in all — what’s going to result from that, by the grace of God, and some good decision making from the elected body and the leadership team is 911 improvements — which is desperately needed, (and) a fantastic outdoor facility.”
As for what’s next, Arndt is relocating to Charleston, Illinois. He’s starting a business, Arndt Municipal Support Inc., to provide local government management consulting, which fulfills a long-time dream of his to have his own business. Arndt and his wife, Kim, will be closer to family there, too.
He does plan to visit Paducah again.
As he moves on, many city employees — or members of “Team Paducah,” and others gathered Friday at City Hall to wish him well at a community open house, complete with refreshments and superhero-themed cake. Arndt’s last day is Saturday, before his successor, Daron Jordan, takes over.
The open house attendees ranged from Mayor George Bray, Paducah City Commission members and city department heads to Harless, McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer, Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Mary Hammond, and many others.
Several people, including Bray, Harless and Wilson, addressed the crowd at the open house, and Bray presented Arndt with a “Duke of Paducah” award.
“I know I tell people everyday Jim’s been a true professional and he’s really made a difference for the city, brought a lot of great programs and great ideas,” Bray said, in his remarks.
“He’s made a lot of people better, which is the real — the true sign of a leader. I know Jim wanted to leave Paducah better off than it was, and when he came here, and I have to say that that is truly what you’ve accomplished.”