Lynchburg City Manager Wynter Benda will never forget the day he moved to the Hill City.
July 29 — when he packed up his house to move his family from Hampton Roads to Lynchburg — is memorable not just because it marked a new chapter in his life but because it also celebrates another milestone.
“Mid-day during that day, both my wife and I realized it was our 21st wedding anniversary,” Benda said. “We shared a brief kiss and a quick hug and got back to packing up the truck.”
He started in the position on Aug. 2. Last week, Benda gave a report to Lynchburg City Council at its work session, discussing his first 90 days on the job and addressing some of the strengths of the staff of the city and some areas of improvement for city staff.
“I want to first start out with the team,” Benda said in his report. “The organization is strong, managed by a strong and capable staff, and I witnessed this firsthand when during my first city council meeting... there was an incident at the regional jail.”
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At his first council meeting as city manager, Benda was forced into a “baptism by fire,” according to Mayor MaryJane Dolan, when 66 inmates barricaded themselves inside a cell block at the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center, just a short hike up the hill from City Hall in downtown Lynchburg.
“We showed pluck and ability that evening and these same characteristics have been borne out in my interactions across all 17 city departments,” Benda said.
One area where the city manager thinks the city can improve is its messaging and expressing all the things Lynchburg has to offer to its residents.
“Having come from a city and understanding that there are literally thousands more of us that call ourselves the ‘greatest place to live, work and play,’ I know Lynchburg is exactly that,” Benda said during his report. “But it is also much, much more.”
Benda said he hopes the city can continue to partner with community organizations, residents, and other Lynchburg entities to better “reflect who we are as an organization.”
The last issue Benda emphasized was the process by which the government works and the continued need for transparency to its citizens.
“I see an opportunity for us to improve how we communicate with one another,” he said. “I’ve said before to you that a city council meeting is exemplative of a board of directors, convening their CEO to discuss matters of import for their shareholders; that for us is our residents.
“What makes us great are our people, our special places, and the things that make up the fabric of this city. Over the last 99 days, I’ve met so many wonderful Lynchburgers who have offered their candid feedback, but most importantly their support for and the belief for the trajectory of this city.
“While I look forward to my black-and-white photo maybe hanging here in City Hall after some hopefully long tenure, I pray that it is a tenure in which I and this leadership team make our small contributions to this organization and to this community.”