Steve Gantt will remain Columbia City Council's right hand for the next year.
Council members unanimously agreed Monday to retain him as city manager through 2010.
That will give new city leaders elected in April time to decide how to fill the post for the long term, retiring Mayor Bob Coble said.
Gantt, a veteran City Hall aide, is willing to stay beyond next year if wanted.
He intends to continue his focus on improving City Hall's troubled finances while serving as the top official overseeing its daily operations.
"Finances will be the number one job," he said. "We will continue look at efficiencies."
Gantt, 62, has held the post on a temporary basis, without a contract, for 10 months.
Coble credited him with "a dramatic turnaround" in starting to end city money troubles.
Gantt's contract gives him an annual salary of $166,000 - a raise of $31,000. He also gets a car allowance of $9,000.
Councilman Sam Davis called the deal "a bargain" since Gantt worked without a raise for the past year.
Gantt has worked in a variety of top-level city posts since 2001.
In those roles, he oversaw construction of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, five streetscaping projects, EdVenture children's museum and parking facilities in the Vista.