The San Marcos City Council met Tuesday night to hire Jim Nuse as the next city manager. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
The lone finalist for the city manager position in San Marcos said he’s grateful for the opportunity to lead the city, even though late last week he submitted a letter withdrawing himself from the race.
In a two-hour executive session Tuesday night, councilmembers decided to name Round Rock City Manager Jim Nuse as the city’s next top administrator. As of last Thursday, however, Nuse told the city that he wanted to take himself out of the running.
“It’s a long process,” Nuse said when asked why he decided at one point to withdraw his name from the short list. “The process is long. There are lots of ups and downs in decisions, and, I’ll tell you what, I am so grateful … to be in the position I am, to come down to serve the city of San Marcos. These processes are tough. There are a lot of things that go on.”
After a “meet and greet” session with the three city manager finalists and the public on Sept. 22, the city council met in executive session and interviewed the finalists once again. A day later, Nuse indicated that he would not pursue the position.
Nuse declined to provide a copy of the letter he submitted to Kay Stroman asking for withdrawal from city manager consideration. Stroman is conducting the city’s executive search. Nuse said he wanted to respect the city’s policy to follow the open records process. The city has not confirmed that such a letter exists.
“It can be important to you or not,” Nuse said. “I’ll tell you what though — I’m completely committed to serving the people of the city of San Marcos … All I can tell you right now, all I can tell you is that I had some, I had some discussions and some clarifications of things, which I am very grateful for, and I am …100 percent ready to move forward … I really believe that I am the right fit for the community and the leaders of the community think I can come in and make a difference. I am so convinced of that.”
Nuse beat out Peoria, IL, City Manager Scott Moore, and Kilgore City Manager Jeffrey Howell for the position.
In June, Nuse submitted his resignation with Round Rock after being employed there since 1983. Nuse indicated at the time that he intended to retire. His resignation is effective in January. But that timeline might now change.
“We’re going to try and work out an accommodation,” Nuse said about the possibility of leaving earlier from Round Rock. “… I feel we’ll be able to work something out and certainly going to try to accommodate everybody if possible.”
Nuse said he learned most in last week’s meet and greet with the public that residents want their desires to not fall on deaf ears.
“They just want to make sure that they’ll be listened to and communicated with,” Nuse said. “That’s what I heard the most. They want to make sure there’s a real person in there that understands their needs.”
Nuse said he brings a vast array of experience to San Marcos after being part of a team in Round Rock that has advanced public safety, attracted living-wage jobs, maintained a strong school system and collaborated in regional projects.
“At this point, I don’t know enough about what in particular is going on down there,” Nuse said about what he can do to help attract living-wage employment to San Marcos. “But I do have a lot of experience with economic development … Really looking forward to rolling up my sleeves on that subject.”
Nuse said that before he applied for the city manager position, he met with San Marcos’ economic development team to get a grasp on the city’s successes and challenges, but he cautioned that more dialogue is needed to better assess strategies.
Nuse also said he’s not opposed to using financial incentives to promote economic development, as long as the business partnership will be fruitful.
“There are some certain things that a community can do, where if you do a strong cross-benefit analysis, you can determine if it provides value or if it doesn’t provide value to the community and then the elected officials will make the decision if (a financial incentive) appropriate,” Nuse said, adding that Round Rock was able to attract Dell Computer.
Nuse also said he has experience with “destination retail,” in which consumers come to town for just long enough to spend money, much like the experience at the outlet malls. Like San Marcos, Round Rock has an outlet mall, though the outlets in San Marcos are much larger.
When it comes to expending economic incentives, Nuse said he first would like to take the pulse of the residents and understand “the conscience and the visions of the community,” as they differ from city to city, to grasp what San Marcos wants to attract and is prepared to expend. Nuse said he understands that attracting living-wage jobs is top priority for most cities, and that any economic incentives spent should first be evaluated within the economic climate.
Councilmembers have been lambasted by residents concerned that the executive search has been rushed and should have been delayed until after the newly elected council is seated in November. Councilmembers decided on Nuse just five weeks before the November election that could potentially sit four new councilmembers.
Nuse said he’ll work with any council, and that the executive search frustrations expressed really boil down to timing. He said councilmembers had the option to name a new city manager before or after the November election, they evaluated which was more valuable, and made a decision.
Nuse said any sitting council is likely to have faced a similar cross-section of candidates. If council had waited to take action after the election, Nuse said, San Marcos would likely had been without a city manager until May, as the process would have probably taken five months and wouldn’t have been started until after the holidays.
“Hopefully the (city manager search) process chose the right person, no matter who is elected,” Nuse said. “Hopefully. Hopefully, that’s the case. And I certainly will work for that.”