BROOKVILLE – At the July 16 Brookville City Council meeting Sonja Keaton was named permanent city manager, shedding the interim title she had held since the resignation of Gary Burkholder earlier this year.
Her new post became effective July 21.
Keaton, a lifelong resident of Brookville except for a short period of time, becomes just the third city manager in Brookville’s 29 year history as a city.
John Wright held the position of city manager prior to Burkholder becoming city manager in July of 2015.
A graduate of Brookville High School in 1975, Keaton has worked for the city of Brookville since 1993, when Brookville was still a village.
She was appointed by council to her position as Finance Director on Jan. 1, 2000.
She said that her familiarity with Brookville both having grown up and worked in the then village as a route counselor for the Dayton Daily News. She started out as a Deputy Utilities Clerk with Brookville before becoming Finance Director.
The daughter of Mathilde Mehr-Watkins and the late Helmut Mehr, Keaton and her husband Ray have three children and three grandchildren, and one dog Sadie.
Living in Xenia as a stay-at-home mom Keaton said she wanted to have her children educated in Brookville schools.
“I saw an ad for an opening with the Dayton Daily and we were wanting to get back to Brookville,” Keaton said.
The job involved getting papers to the carriers and was at night, her husband was at home with the children.
She was with the DDN from 1979 until 1988 and also involved being a route counselor in Verona as well.
“I was the middle person between the paper and the carriers,” she said.
In 1990 Keaton enrolled in an adult education course to be a legal secretary through the then Montgomery County Joint Vocational School, now the Miami Valley Career Technology Center.
Between then and when she took the post in Brookville government she worked for Travelers Insurance.
Hearing about a spot open as a utility clerk she was one of over 100 applicants.
“My familiarity with Brookville helped me get the job,” Keaton said.
“In 1999 she filled in as a replacement as Finance Director until being named to the post permanently.
Following the resignation of Jeff Sewert as Assistant City Manager in 2010 Keaton assumed that role as well. She held that post until 2016.
Keaton teamed with city department heads Ron Fletcher (Fire), Doug Jerome (Police) and Chris Homan (Services) starting late at night on May 27 following a Ef-4 tornado that hit the city and surrounding area.
“We had to move quickly,” she said.
Relief efforts were quickly organized once safety checks were conducted in damaged areas.
Keaton said that the city is still awaiting word on whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency will issue an emergency declaration for public assistance following the storm.
If that comes then the city is eligible for 75 reimbursement for costs associated with storm clean-up and safety services provided.
“We have done the preliminary assessment for that through FEMA,” said Keaton.
As for goals set for her new position Keaton said it is too early to state them.
“I want to see how all this (including storm relief) pans out,” said Keaton.
She did say that it is nice to see some renewal happening in storm-damaged areas.
Her first full meeting with city council as city manager will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 4.