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New Columbia assistant city manager says focus will be on public safety


The City of Columbia's Assistant City Manager Matt Unrein met with community members Tuesday night to discuss and outline what expectations are for him in his position.

Unrein started his position on Feb. 19, after the city named him to the position in January, marking the city's fourth city manager leadership position with a six-figure salary. Unrein said he's most excited about the unique opportunities he believes Columbia will bring for him.

"The City of Columbia is so progressive," Unrein said. "The programs and the policies that you guys implement are not replicated anywhere else in the Midwest." 

Since Unrein began his position, he said he's already started meeting with departments across the city, including the Columbia Police Department and the Columbia Fire Department. Unrein said he expects those meetings will continue throughout the next few weeks.

"I think it all starts with communication...and so it's getting in front of those folks and spending some time with them learning what is important to them and what their folks need," Unrein said.

Unrein said he plans to focus on public safety, as well as the Office of Community Violence in his position. The office was proposed by Mayor Barbara Buffaloe in October and would focus on preventing violence in the city.

Unrein said he doesn't know specifically what he hopes to do with the office, yet. However, he said he plans to take a trip to Omaha in the coming weeks to look into a similar program.

Susan Renee Carter lives in Columbia and said she hopes the city moves forward with the office. She also hopes Unrein includes community members. She also said she hopes the city provides a specific budget for the office.

"One thing I'd like to see is also that they have a set budget for it and that they see it as a priority in preventing violence," Renee Carter said. "It should be their own budget, so that it stands alone and that it's dedicated to actually implementing things that work."

Ward 6 Councilman Nick Foster said the City Council discussed moving forward with the office Monday night in a work session. He said there is no set date for when it might be implemented in Columbia, but said he thinks it's important the city continue to implement it.

Foster also said he looks forward to working with Unrein.

"So, I think it's one of those things where we'll encourage him...I certainly will encourage him and then look for him to bring those things back to us and ask for what he needs to be successful," Foster said.

The city's new Director of Housing and Neighborhood Services Rebecca Thompson also attended Monday night's meeting. Thompson said she's looking forward to being a resource for people who need affordable housing in the city.

Thompson also said she hopes to look into internal housing programs, but says making a change will take a village.

"I think it's really going to be an all hands on deck solution to the problem," Thompson said. But I think at the end of the day we need more infrastructure to address the crisis."

Thompson will begin her new position March 6.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Nia Hinson


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