San Marcos city manager finalists Jeff Howell, left, Scott Moore, center, and Jim Nuse, right. Photos by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
The San Marcos City Council came out of a two-hour executive session Wednesday night without a decision on the new city manager.
The executive session followed a “meet and greet” event at which the three finalists announced for the position met with citizens at the City of San Marcos Conference Center.
More than 100 residents turned out to meet the finalists — Round Rock City Manager Jim Nuse, Kilgore City Manager Jeff Howell and Peoria, IL, City Manager Scott Moore. Later, during the executive session, the three candidates interviewed again with the city council.
Councilmembers will continue deliberations next week after looking over comment cards filled out by residents at the meet and greet. San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz said after executive session that a summary of the comment cards by search consultant Kay Stroman indicated that Moore and Nuse brought the most responses. The contents of the comment cards were not released, as councilmembers have yet to review them.
All three candidates said they’re ready to take on the job at San Marcos, each adding that they will have no problem working for a council that could be substantially different than the hiring council. The November election could change four of the seven councilmembers.
“Operations of high value government will transcend elected officials,” Nuse said.
Moore explained that being selected by an outgoing council is somewhat like college football, in that, sometimes, you don’t play with the coach who recruited you.
But some San Marcos residents are not as optimistic as the city manager candidates.
“They should wait until the new (elected) office gets in, before they start hiring the new city manager,” said 45-year San Marcos resident Ollie Giles. “I believe (outgoing Mayor) Susan (Narvaiz) is pulling the strings and (councilmembers) are dancing they way she wants them to dance … Why can’t they (councilmembers) back up and say ‘No, Susan, let’s wait until after the election,’ and quit rushing things.”
Narvaiz said the process isn’t being rushed and is, indeed, very similar to the city manager search that produced Rick Menchaca in 2008. The city hired Menchaca in April 2008, after Dan O’Leary announced his departure in October 2007. The city council fired Menchaca by a 4-3 vote on June 24.
San Marcos Assistant City Manager Collette Jamison said that during the 2008 search, Arcus (now known as Affion), the consultant heading the executive search, took about a month to develop a city manger profile. After that profile was published and advertised, Jamison said, it took about two months to get Menchaca in office. The difference now, Jamison said, is that the city has a recent city manger profile, the one developed in 2008, which needed only minor updates before it could be published and advertised.
Stroman said that the 2008 executive search may have only been about a week or two longer that the one now being conducted, from the time the candidate profile was advertised to the naming of a new city manager.
Giles argued that an important difference between the executive searches in 2008 and 2010 is that the current search is being conducted one-month before a city election that could sit a new council majority, whereas the 2008 search was finalized in April, seven months before the 2008 general election. That election re-elected Narvaiz to a third term as mayor, re-elected Councilmember Chris Jones to a second term and put Fred Terry on the council without an opponent.
Giles’ frustration doesn’t resonate with everyone.
“I think it’s a good process the way (councilmembers) are doing it,” said nine-year San Marcos resident Elena Duran. “I have to admit it is a little quick, but I think it’s fine the way it’s being handled. It’s their job. The city is in a state of shock and we need to get these positions filled.”
Moore said he understands the controversies attending growth, adding that he dealt with growth issues as assistant city manager in Wichita, KS. He said a comprehensive master plan shouldn’t be so restrictive as to prohibit opportunities, but should also address the concerns of residents.
Howell said he would listen to the concerns of San Marcos residents and work with city staff to produce the best options for the city.
“It’s not what my vision is, but what the community’s vision is,” Howell said, adding that “(City) staff is eager for someone to tell them what they expect and then let them do what they need to do.”
Nuse also said he would bring all stakeholders to the table and bring about a plan together that addresses all issues of concern.
“I serve the citizens of the community,” Nuse said. “It’s the policy of the council and the will of the people in how I would move the city forward.”
All three candidates have experience as city managers in other municipal capacities.
Moore has served as Peoria city manager since August 2009. Before then, he was assistant city manager for Wichita, KS, for four years, and served as city administrator for Ellsworth, KS, from June 1997 to August 2005.
Howell has served as Kilgore city manager since June 2005. He was previously the city administrator of Bridgeport from June 1999 to June 2005. Howell also has been an administrative services manager, fiscal services coordinator, fiscal officer, administrative assistant, municipal services specialist, and parkway inspector for the City of Fort Worth.
Nuse has served as Round Rock’s city manger since January 2003. He also has worked for Round Rock in different capacities since 1983, serving first as an engineer and assistant director of public works, followed by service as public works director for 17 years, before being promoted to chief of operations/assistant city manager.
Nuse submitted his resignation to the Round Rock City Council in June to be effective Jan. 15, 2011. He said was retiring from Round Rock at a time when it was good for the city for him to leave. He said he hadn’t planned who his next employer would be, as his priority was to leave when Round Rock was “in good shape,” though he looked forward to the possibility in San Marcos.
Howell, who serves a community roughly one-fourth the size of San Marcos, said a transition to San Marcos wouldn’t be difficult.
“Managing a larger city is somewhat easier, because you have a lot of professionals to help you,” Howell said, adding that he has experience with large cities and handling big budgets from his employment at Fort Worth.
Moore said a move to San Marcos would hit close to home and allow him to be near his family. He said he was born and raised in Bastrop. He received his undergraduate degree and played football at Texas State.
“I think they’re all great candidates,” Narvaiz said. “It’s been a great process and any of the three candidates would serve San Marcos well.”Email | Print