Kyle City Manager Tom Mattis resigned Tuesday night after eight years on the job. File photo.
KYLE — By a 5-2 vote, Kyle City Councilmembers accepted the resignation of City Manager Tom Mattis very early Wednesday morning after a two-hour executive session.
“I am very appreciative of Mr. Mattis’ years of hard work for the city,” said Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson, who took the seat in a Feb. 13 special election that all but sealed the city manager’s fate. “Time and again, he has proven himself to be a dedicated city manager. It was council’s view, unfortunately, that Mr. Mattis’ relationship with the council and the city had to come to an end. In his departure, however, I know we all wish him the best.”
Said Mattis, “I am very proud of our service to the city of Kyle. We made history. Our team reached heights never before seen in Kyle — which will never be repeated in any eight-year period. I am thankful to have been given the opportunity.”
City Councilmembers David Wilson and Michelle Lopez cast the only votes against accepting Mattis’ resignation. Though Mattis opponents had hoped his resignation would spare the city the expense of paying a buy-out provision in his contract, the motion included a payment of between $200,000 and $250,000, to be determined by an audit of his salary and benefits.
The city council will hold a special meeting next Tuesday to appoint an interim city manager and start the process of selecting a new city manager.
The resignation ends an eight-year tenure for Mattis, during which the city grew from about 6,000 residents when he arrived from Waterville, OH, in January 2002, to nearly 30,000 today. The economy grew in Kyle just as much, if not more, by some measures.
In the last two years, the city has seen two million square feet of retail and a 210-bed Seton Hospital built at the intersection of Interstate-35 and Kyle Parkway. The hospital, which opened last September, already is being expanded. The city’s sales tax haul in February was $329,378.85, more than six times the $49,010.57 the city received in February 2002, right when Mattis started in Kyle.
Kyle Economic Development Director Diana Blank reported to the Kyle Area Chamber of Commerce (KACC) last month that the city has added 600,000 square feet of medical facilities and 1,500 direct medical jobs in the last two years.
One of Mattis’ early initiatives was the construction of Kyle Parkway, a 3.1-mile, four-lane stretch through the north portion of the city. Mattis campaigned for the highway, which extended FM 1626 from Jack C. Hays Trail southward to I-35, saying the city needed the location for economic development.
The project cost $20 million, with the city paying $14 million and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) paying $6 million. Construction began in January 2005 and the road opened in June 2006.
However, the expenses that came with growth have become a political lightning rod in Kyle. The city has run its debt to $73 million to pay for infrastructure and public amenities, and development didn’t come to Kyle Parkway fast enough to forestall property tax increases.
After Mattis and the Kyle City Council cut property tax rates for six straight years, extending the city’s streak to ten years, the city raised the property tax rate for Fiscal Year 2009. In the last two years, the city has raised its property tax rate from 27.07 cents per $100 of taxable value to 42.4 cents, with more than half of the present rate going towards debt service.
Also, time and growth brought antagonism between Mattis and long-time Kyle residents, particularly those who live in the original part of the city.
In February, Kyle voters moved Johnson, an avowed opponent of Mattis’ fiscal policies, from her council position to mayor. Budget discussions among the council often could be characterized as Johnson advocating budget cuts, while Mattis argued for increased city services.
The February election also seated Jaime Sanchez and Russ Heubner on the council. Sanchez’ opposition to Mattis goes back to 2003, when he purchased a piece of downtown property at a foreclosure sale, only for the city to claim that it owned the property. Sanchez sued the city and won.
The elections of the last two months gave other evidence that the city’s direction under Mattis didn’t set well with Kyle voters. Johnson’s mayoral victory came against Lopez, a Mattis supporter. On March 2, Mattis supporter Mike Gonzalez, who resigned as Kyle’s mayor to run for Hays County Precinct 2 commissioner, was thumped in the Republican primary by Hays CISD Trustee Mark Jones, who took 77.9 percent of the vote.
The next night, during Johnson’s first city council meeting as Kyle’s mayor, the council voted to remove Mattis from the council dais by the same 5-2 vote the finalized his resignation.
The most livid objections to Mattis originated early in his tenure. Shortly after becoming Kyle’s city manager in January 2002, Mattis asked for, and received from the council, a moratorium on residential development. Mattis supported his request with a growth management report showing that the city had approved much more residential development than its infrastructure could support.
Mattis predicted in the report that a city that had just counted 5,314 residents in the 2000 Census stood to grow to about 40,000 residents by 2010. The city has grown to more than 27,000 residents, as the national housing downturn has slowed development. The city peaked at 1,220 building permits in 2004, and the number has since fallen to about one-third of that.
Despite the moratorium in 2002, the city couldn’t secure water resources fast enough to accommodate its expanding population and pumped three times its permitted amount of water from the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BS/EACD) in 2002. Once the Austin water board politicized the matter, a group of newer Kyle residents launched a recall campaign against then-Mayor James Adkins in an attempt to topple Mattis.
Older Kyle residents from the center of town responded with a ground campaign to defeat the recall and support Mattis. The recall failed by a margin approaching three to one.
Since then, though, old town residents aligned with Johnson grew disgruntled with Mattis, believing he turned his back on them. The location of a new city library, a passion of key old town residents, turned especially divisive when they pushed for a downtown location while Mattis advocated a location in the proposed “uptown” section of Plum Creek near the intersection of Kohler’s Krossing and Kyle Parkway. The city council eventually selected a downtown location last year.Email | Print