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Chief of staff Cox returns, with scissors

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He's been away from city government for 19 months, but Steve Cox, Mayor Steve Bach's new-old chief of staff, says the problems haven't changed. While Cox is adamant he's not looking to lay people off, he says he's keeping an eye open for city services "that the private sector can do."

"When you look at the five-year forecast, when we look at the expenses and the revenues," he says, "if we don't do something to change our paradigm by creating new jobs, our trend is downward in terms of the general fund."

Cox notes that Sam's Club's relocation outside city limits from South Academy Boulevard will cost the city $1.5 million a year in lost sales tax revenue; meantime, the city's bill for parks watering could increase by $2 million in 2015.

Cox, 54, served as fire chief, city manager and as Bach's first chief of staff in 2011 before being named chief of economic vitality. He left the city in July 2012. He received $190,545 from the city when he retired, including $86,331 in severance pay; the balance was sick and vacation time and health benefits.

He'll be paid $186,945 as chief of staff, the same as his predecessor, Laura Neumann, who resigned after 25 months on the job.

Bach's appointment of Cox and three others last week means that all top-ranking appointees are veteran municipal employees for the first time since September 2011. Bach took office in June 2011.

Last week, Bach made Wynetta Massey city attorney and Dan Gallagher airport director after both served for a time in acting roles; he also named emergency operations chief Bret Waters as deputy chief of staff, a new position.

Unlike Neumann, Cox won't attend every City Council meeting, leaving that duty to Waters, though he'll work with Council on the 2015 budget.

Besides overseeing daily operations of streets, stormwater, parks, and support departments such as IT and human resources, Cox also will work on the $250 million City for Champions. Bach's centerpiece jobs engine so far has met with opposition from some who fear taxpayers will be left to pay any shortfalls if the component tourism projects don't pay for themselves.

While Cox was away, Neumann placed fleet maintenance into a contractor's hands to save money and worked a deal for emergency ambulance service that pays the city a franchise fee.

Now it's Cox's turn to deliver.

— Pam Zubeck

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