By LANCE DUNCAN
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.Email | Print