GATE CITY — After nearly a year on the job, Gate City Town Manager Jeremy Keller told town officials this week that he was stepping down from the position to pursue a new career opportunity.
Keller, 31, formally submitted his resignation Tuesday after deciding to accept a job offer from the Federal Probation Service. Keller worked as a state probation officer prior to being hired by the town in January 2012.
Keller, whose last day as town manager will be Jan. 31., said the decision to leave town hall was a hard one to make.
“It was a hard decision to take the other job, I had a lot of blood, sweat and tears invested in it,” Keller said. “I liked what I did, it was fun and challenging, and at the end of the day I felt I was making a difference. So it was hard to walk away.”
Despite his relatively short tenure, Keller said he felt he helped the town make tangible progress toward improving the quality of life for residents and becoming more friendly to businesses.
“I was always told the town was an unfriendly place to conduct business, and that was the number one thing I wanted to change,” Keller said. “I wanted people to come into town hall and feel they were treated fairly and kindly ... and that’s the one thing I made a dent in and hopefully it will persist after I leave.”
Although she feels losing Keller is disappointing news for the town, Mayor Frances Perry said she respects his decision and wishes him the best.
“It was a real shock to me and a big disappointment for the town,” Perry said. “Jeremy has been above and beyond what we expected out of him getting into this kind of work. He’s a go-getter, he likes a challenge and he really brought a life to town that really gave me a boost in my term.
“But for Jeremy, I couldn’t be more happy. ... I can see he put a lot of thought in it and he feels it’s what’s best for his family.”
Despite having no prior experience in town government, Perry praised the work Keller did on improving the town’s business climate and in helping establish events like the Grilling at the Gate Festival.
“That’s what’s really amazed me the most about him,” Perry said. “For him to come in without any experience in this field and do the job that he’s done, and how hard he worked at it, like I said he was a step ahead of us in everything.”
Perry said the town council will decide on how it will go about hiring another town manager at its next regular meeting on Feb. 16.
“We will definitely go ahead and put out an ad for applications and try to get someone on board as soon as possible,” Perry said.
“The one thing we have in our favor, I feel, is we have such a good staff in the office and they work well together ... and I feel confident the office staff will be able to handle it (until a hire is made.)”