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Petersburg City Manager talks about top priorities, 30 days into job

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PETERSBURG, Va. -- Petersburg city manager Aretha Ferrell Benavides is just shy of her first 30 days on the job.

She said she is not dwelling on the past, but working hard for the city's future. A top priority she said Is good fiscal management.

"I'm here for the long haul and I'm committed to the city,” said Ferrell Benavides.

She said the city needs to develop a budget and stick with it. To help facilitate that, she's looking at every aspect of the city's operations.

Her first round of business included meeting with each department head and she is now working to meet every city employee.

The Robert Bobb Group, an interim management team, is in place until September but Ferrell Benavides now handles the day to day operations of the city.

She said she is examining ways to clean up the city and generate funds. That includes selling off city owned property and working to update the city's technology,  a key problem she said behind some of the billing issues that have plagued the city.

The water lines are in need of replacing and she is considering the controversial selling of the city's water lines.

"I’m not necessarily a proponent for selling the system but I am a proponent of doing something, which means we're going to have to develop and budget capital funding to replace our lines,” Ferrell Benavides.

The new city manager also said she believes business recruitment is important but so is business retention.

She is also restructuring some job descriptions to focus more on business recruitment and business retention.

"So part of what I'm looking for in my Deputy City Manager of Operations is also to be the Deputy City Manager of Operations and Economic Development,” she said.

While the city remains short of cash, one priority is to upgrade the city’s technology, which includes more automation in terms of billing.