GROVE - A Tahlequah native will soon officially become the new city manager in Grove.

“Ever since I first put a paddle in the Illinois River, I've always loved this part of the state. It's the greatest place on earth. Grove is an ideal city to come to,” said Bruce I. Johnson, adding that he always enjoyed the common sense and deep-rooted values of people here.

Johnson presently works as an administrator for the City of St. Clair, Mo., and was previously an assistant city manager in Bartlesville. He has also served as city manager in Dewey.

“He's a man of strong character and moral fiber,” Grove Mayor Gary Bishop said.

During an emergency meeting called by the Grove City Council on Wednesday, the council unanimously voted to approve entering into a contract with Johnson.

Under the terms of that agreement, Johnson will receive a salary of $105,000, car allowance of $500, moving expenses not to exceed $4,200, retirement, health insurance, sick leave and vacation. City council members also agreed to compensate Johnson for professional and civic organization membership dues.

Acting city attorney Ron Cates has approved the employment contract, a Grove official said.

Johnson did his undergraduate work at the Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., earning a bachelor of science in political science, his resume indicates.

In 1999, according to his resume, Johnson earned a master's degree in public administration from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo.

Tuesday, the city council, city attorney, acting city manager and city treasurer met in executive session for approximately one hour discussing the city manager's post. After reconviening in public session, the group announced that no decision had been made.

The council met multiple times during the past few days in executive session, councilman Terry Ryan explained, sifting through 27 initial applications, narrowing it down to eight semi-finalists and finally to three.

Ryan indicated that the council did its “level best” to exercise due diligence in the process.

Councilman Larry Parham said he felt Johnson will be an asset to the city.

Mike Davenport was the only city councilman not in attendance at Wednesday's meeting. Interim city manager Debbie Mavity said she'd spoken with Davenport earlier in the day and he had no objections to the appointment, extending his “full support.”

Johnson formally takes the helm July 1, according to the contract.

Bishop said he would began making preparations for a community “get-together” where no business would be discussed, but rather a meet and greet situation for the public to better get to know Johnson and his family.

“I look forward to building relationships,” Johnson said.