San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

April 9th, 2010
Kyle to move on without Mattis, seeks new manager

By LANCE DUNCAN
News Reporter

KYLE — In the wake of the Kyle City Council accepting the resignation of long-time City Manager Tom Mattis on Tuesday night, councilmembers are looking forward to the future and reflecting on what happened.

Several Kyle residents came forward at the beginning of the fateful city council meeting to speak on behalf of the embattled city manager. Others stood in the rear of a packed council chamber waiting to see how the night would unfold.

When the council re-convened after executive session and announced that the acceptance of Mattis’ resignation with a payout of at least $200,000, there was an audible gasp in the crowd. The payout, subject to audit, is based on stipulations in Mattis’ contract.

In the end, Mattis didn’t have enough support on the council to retain his position. New Mayor Lucy Johnson has opposed Mattis consistently on budget issues. The blame fell to Mattis as the city ran its debt to $73 million to build an infrastructure that could support a city that grew from about 6,000 residents when he started in January 2002 to going on 30,000 today.

Now, the city council begins the search for a new city manager. Assistant City Manager James Earp, who has taken charge when Mattis has taken vacation, will run the city administration until the city council decides what to do next. Johnson said that any candidates the council would like to discuss will be considered as the council keeps its options open.

“I believe everyone on the council took this matter very seriously,” Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson said. “We all want what is best for the city. Mr. Mattis has been an excellent city manager in his long tenure with the city of Kyle, but on Tuesday the council as a whole accepted that his time with the city had come to an end. We all wish him well. I earnestly hope he gets another job and is very happy.”

Councilmember David Wilson, who cast one of two votes against accepting Mattis’ resignation, said he wants the search for a new city manager to have a positive focus, emphasizing a “clean slate” approach.

Councilmember David Salazar emphasized the importance of moving forward now that Mattis has resigned. Salazar is not running for re-election in May.

“Even though I’m not going to be on council, I would hope that whoever we get to be city manager would be somebody that would have service to our residents first in mind and value the contributions of the staff,” Salazar said. “I also hope they would advocate for training and benefits and making the staff really feel that they’re ambassadors of the city. Whenever the staff is active in our community, they do represent the city. From the police officers to the people who do the public works, they are our number one asset. We need to be treating them with respect, too.”

Councilmember Russ Heubner said he would like a new city manager with a “can-do, positive attitude,” who would be “an A-player with energy, enthusiasm and excitement.”

Councilmember Michelle Lopez, who lost the mayoral election to Johnson, called Mattis’ departure “disappointing and a tremendous loss” for the city. Lopez joined Wilson in voting against accepting Mattis’ resignation.

“We will never find a perfect city manager, but I do hope that Tom’s successor will possess the same professional experience, coupled with a willingness to keep the city’s best interest in mind when making decisions,” Lopez said. “His successor will need to balance between special interest demands and the best decisions for Kyle’s future.”

Salazar said he agreed with Johnson that the relationship with Mattis had basically come to an end, and that “it’s probably been time to make a change for a while.”

Salazar said he went into the executive session knowing that it would take five votes to terminate Mattis’ contract, but he didn’t think it was going to happen. He said he definitely didn’t know the possibility of Mattis tendering his resignation was going to be discussed.

“It was a very different and surprising situation,” Salazar said.

On Mattis’ performance as city manager, Salazar said there is no question that Mattis had done what the council asked of him on several counts. But Salazar emphasized that no one person is responsible for the city’s achievements in recent years.

“It’s a coalition of people in government, as well as a lot of private sector people who really invested a lot of money in making these things happen,” Salazar said. “HEB, Seton, (FM) 1626, etc., wouldn’t have happened if the private sector hadn’t stepped up to help us do it.”

Lopez said that she felt the situation leading to Mattis’ downfall was “an issue of relationship,” which, she said, wasn’t irreparable. On March 3, during Johnson’s first city council meeting as mayor, the council voted to move Mattis from the council dais.

Wilson also focused on Mattis’ achievements, saying Kyle has accomplished a lot in the past eight years, and that while it was not “one man’s doing,” he felt that Mattis had been a key player.

“(FM) 1626 didn’t happen by accident,” Wilson said, emphasizing that there would be no Seton Hospital in Kyle without the FM 1626 extension through the north part of the city. The road is known as Kyle Parkway.

Wilson said that Mattis had been “on page, on time and on budget” with his project contributions, and that he had “executed impeccably” whenever the council had asked him to move on a specific item.

Wilson said the time was not right for accepting the city manager’s resignation, because there is still much to do. However, Wilson said he was aware that there were members of the council who were looking for a fresh start.

Citizens speaking to the council before the decision came down in favor of Mattis. Wally Bloodworth of Kyle said that Mattis had been heavily involved in making Kyle a better place to live, pointing out improvements such as the Seton Hospital and the new businesses and development around FM 1626.

Two other men echoed Bloodworth’s sentiments, saying that the city needed Mattis to continue his role, and describing him as a hard worker.

Jennifer DiLeo, who frequently comments at Kyle City Council meetings, asked the council to keep in mind “who had been an asset” in past city projects.

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0 thoughts on “Kyle to move on without Mattis, seeks new manager

  1. I have a feeling Kyle will regret this move, sooner rather than later. Not many towns can grow as rapidly as Kyle has over the past ten years, and it is a testament to Mattis’ abilities that it was managed as well as it was.

    Hopefully, whoever his replacement is can also recognize the need for infrastructure sufficient to handle the increasing population and demands that accompany explosive growth. I have a feeling that as long as the city manager lets them put the library where they want it, he’ll be OK.

    In the end, Mattis was taken down by small-town politics, but at least he has a really nice star on his resume for the work he did in Kyle. He will land on his feet somewhere else.

  2. Whole-heartedly agree, Dano!

    It saddens me that Kyle is losing a professional of Mattis’ standard and that the tax payers suffer from the councils vote to honor his resignation. The payout is common practice for contracts of this nature. In order to employ a new city manager with high qualifications, council will have to approve a similar contract.
    If citizens are angry about the payout, maybe Mayor Johnson could just write the check.

  3. Tacky. Tacky. Please keep in mind whose name is on the bottom of Mr. Mattis’ contract. It’s NOT Mayor Johnson.

    If you want to really make a statement, try having the courage to use your real name. Your comments might then have some validity. If you had as much guts as I do, you wouldn’t hide behind some made-up name.

    And as for “high” qualification – when did merely a bachelors degree qualify? That’s all that Mr. Mattis possesses…

  4. I anxiously await the naming of Mattis’ successor and reading the terms of the contract, which Mayor Johnson will sign. I know that the new council leaders will find someone with a MA ,or more, at a salary of much less, with lots and lots of experience.
    Good job, puppetmaster!

  5. SKEETER much has been said recently about fical responsibility and at least two of the new council chairs have been filled with citizens who * pledged to keep tight control of spending .
    now we have the firing of the CM with a payout that could reach a 1/4 mill i have milled this over for days still dont have a opinion as to whether i agree with the decision of not ( who knows what went on behind closed doors )
    What i do have thou is a answer to your statement that the* city council will find somebody with a MA for much less salary *

    lets look at that for a moment in the light of the majority of the council members claim to be more FISCAL RESPONSIBLE .

    how can they find a qualified experienced city manager at a much lower salary when according to the chart published by the free press recently which i take to be true the kyle asst magr earns a salary of $124.179
    a differance
    of only about $50.00 not much room to negotiate a more responsible salary there unless you are suggesting they employ one who earns the same /or less then the asst mgr .
    and you must ask yourself is the salary in conformity with salaries offered to applicants for similar positions elsewhere ?
    which brings me back to my original thought .

    the decision to fire tom mathis will cost us about $200.000 + the benefit to the city in hiring a *new face * is yet to be established
    what im concerned about is the first ACT of the newly committed to *fiscal restraint * council will cost us yet another 1/4 mill will the trend continue . as i said time will tell .

  6. I agree John. I was being sarcastic.
    The city is growing and changing and a CM who has the capabilites to continue what Mattis has begun, will not come cheap. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if council had to pony up an even larger salary.
    It seems to me that Kyle will end up paying 1/4 mil to a CM who resigned, plus pay for a search for a new CM and employ an interim.
    Maybe the mayor thinks she can run the city without a CM??

  7. Our city manager started out at $88,000 eight years ago. I think longevity played into the level of his current pay. Although we are a fast growing city (or we were a couple of years ago), we are still a small city/town.
    Skeeter – will I see you tonight at the City Council meeting wherein they will select an interim city manager?

  8. Culver City CA is a city of 40,000 residents with a wide range of economic activity, similar to Kyle. They currently have a listing posed online seeking a new City Manager. Salary? $245,000.

  9. LILA ill be at the meeting ( as always) skeeter ?
    DANO cant take culver city as a compirable california is over priced on everything
    thats why they are broke .

  10. SKEETER
    perhaps the mayor can con the charter review committee just formed to change the status of the city to a STRONG MAYOR type entitiy .
    then she can RULE SUPREME
    🙂

  11. Point made, JohnA. I also found a town in Montana, population 15,000, that is offering $125K for a city manager.

    I don’t know what Kyle will have to offer Mattis’ replacement in salary, but the answer is somewhere between those two figures ($125 and $250K), I’m sure.

    I’m also pretty sure the salary of the new City Manager won’t be *less* than Mattis earned…..at least not if they want someone qualified. Mattis was a bargain for Kyle, and the process for replacing him (with a city of 40,000) won’t be anything like the process that brought him to town (when the population was less than 10,000).

  12. The points of reference on salary are very interesting, John and I do feel, Dano, that Mattis was a bargain considering what all he did for the city in his 8 years.
    Its sad to think that part of what the great city of Kyle will have to offer a new candidate is a city council that cannot work with the CM. I too feel that it is the mayor’s goal to revert to a “strong mayor” form of government, then she and her cronies won’t have to hire/or work with a cm. Good luck with that one!
    I did have a question for Lila, were you involved in city government when any of Mattis’ contracts were up for approval? and yes, I will see you at the council meeting tonight.

  13. The “forced” resignation of Tom Mattis is outrageous. My family will not be moving to Kyle Texas now that a 26 year old mayor is calling the shots in city government. It’s a travesty that a little one-horse town has become a place of respectibility and substance because of the city manager’s hard work and planning, only to be overturned by a “ruling family” member and her cronies. Kyle has it’s work cut out for it. We’ll look somewhere else to move thank you – where the city council has more foresight than fear.

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