April 2020

TCMA Management Messenger

Message from the President
COVID-19 Document Share
TCMA Annual Conference
2020 Statewide Election Results
Management Transitions
Volunteer for a TCMA Committee
New Members
New Member Applications
Meet Your Colleagues
Member News
Immigration at Our Back Door: Implementing Solutions in the Rio Grande Valley
Ethics Corner
TCMA Educational Events
Memos on Meetings

message from the president

Kenneth Williams (JPG)This letter is being written as cities and towns are under siege by the COVID-19 virus. This is an event of magnitude that the United States of America has not experienced in modern times. It is impacting citizen’s health, how they socially interact, the economic well being of our country, and how we operate our cities. Please remain vigilant in protecting our towns and cities, following guidelines of the CDC and the direction of federal, state, and local officials. One thing is for sure - no storm can last forever.

City managers can and will make the difference in getting communities through this storm. City managers resolve complex issues every day that require the skills of art and science. As science teaches to know and art teaches to do, public administrators are the problem solvers that elected officials, citizens, workers, and the business community rely on as the expert problem decipher in town.

The charge to the membership is to take your appointed role as city administrators and provide the leadership required in your role in the community to solve the issues identified. If not the city manager, then who? Do so and let the TCMA ethics guidelines steer you. Make the ethical decisions and recommendations needed as not to politicize events. While being aware of the impacts, city managers are not elected officials; we are the manager. Please manage your city accordingly, and let the elected officials do their job.

Some considerations for responding to COVID-19:

  • In taking care of a city, the health and wellbeing of employees and their loved ones should be first and foremost. Make sure to minimize their risk to coronavirus. If this means working from home where possible, there are many ways to do so while providing needed city services. Employees are not effective if they worry about the wellbeing of an elderly parent, day care for their kids, or if their employee insurance covers them in such an event. Put policies in place that can assure full pay for employees as this event plays out. A comforted employee is an impactful employee, and one that will be loyal to the organization going forward. Give clear direction, and don’t ask them to do more than you are.
  • Keep the community focused, and implore them to remain vigilant. Remind people of CDC recommendations about social distancing, monitoring their health, and what to do if suspected of having COVID-19. Get them to follow presidential/federal, gubernatorial/state, and mayoral/local declarations and orders.
  • Provide the support and resources needed for the mayor and city council to make difficult decisions. Mayors are being put under tremendous pressures as they make disaster declarations and orders, some which are infringing on the rights of citizens, business owners, and other key stakeholders in the community. Support them with your honest and professional opinion as they don’t often make these kinds of decisions. They want you to help, and their opinion of you in the future as the manager could be greatly impacted, based upon what you do in this time of trouble.
  • Communicate early and often with the citizens. Have your communications department (in many cases that is the manager) put out information as key decisions are made that affect them. Also, have a way they can solicit information from the town organization. Let stakeholders know the water is fine, trash will be picked up, they can still check on their permit etc. Regular statements from the mayor, city manager, and other key staff are crucial.
  • Get involved with the regional response efforts. Talk with the county judge (who is the emergency director), the county emergency coordinator, the health community, food suppliers, and other cities in the region. This is a coordinated effort with life or death information being disseminated every day, so make sure your citizenry is informed.

For nine years as an emergency management coordinator, I experienced hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Lili, and Ike. I was at ground zero as the local emergency coordinator for the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster. While experiencing man made and environmental responses, each was unique and response effort was varied. The response criteria are not so clear in this pandemic with little protocol identified. Response efforts are being created as we go. This is a fluid event, so being able to adapt quickly is important to your organization.

In closing, this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. We must pace ourselves as not to tire. City managers must provide the strong measured leadership that is required of the chief executive officer of the city. Remain vigilant, follow CDC regulations, and those of local officials. Take care of your employees. Provide support to your local officials. Communicate with the public and get involved with regional efforts. Then as we convert to a recovery mode as this has subsided, city administrators must remember the lessons learned as we go forward.

If not you leading, then who? I have faith in each of you to do your job.

I pray for the United States of America, the great State of Texas, and our towns and cities as we respond then recover from this catastrophic event.

Love every one of you,

Kenneth R. Williams
President, Texas City Managers Association  

covid-19 document share

During this time of critical need, cities may need assistance with how to best communicate new policies and procedures with city staff and citizens. Jack Harper, city manager of the City of Fulshear, has several documents to share with colleagues including administrative initiatives, flexible work authorizations, leave policy, pay procedures, travel restrictions, and quarantines. These documents can be found at COVID-19.  If your city has documents you would like to share to assist others develop best practices, please email them in a Word document format to kim@tml.org. All documents will be added to the library at the link provided.

tcma annual conference

2020 TCMA Annual Conference

Registration and housing is now open for the 
2020 TCMA Annual Conference

Apply for a TCMA Annual Conference Scholarship.

The application deadline is 5:00 p.m. on April 15.

Scholarship information is available at Annual Conference Scholarship.

Follow conference updates at #TCMACON2020

2020 statewide election results

The TCMA Board would like to thank the membership for participating in the statewide election process. The 2020-2021 Board will begin serving following the 2020 TCMA Annual Conference, June 4-7.

Please welcome the incoming Executive Board.

Brad Stafford, City Manager, Navasota

Sereniah Breland, City Manager, Pflugerville

Vice President
Jay Stokes, City Manager, Deer Park

TML Board Representative (to commence on October 16 following the TML Annual Conference)
Hugh Walker, Deputy City Manager, Bryan

Immediate Past President
Kenneth Williams, City Manager, Buda


Micaela Bandel is no longer the city administrator of the City of Marion.

Gary Broz will no longer serve as the city manager of the City of Eagle Lake, effective April 10.

William "Bill" DiLibero will retire as the city manager of the City of Port Lavaca, effective April 1.

Robert Eads is the new city manager of the City of Laredo.

Alan Guard is the new interim city administrator of the City of New Fairview.

Veronica Gutierrez is the new interim city manager of the City of Sullivan City.

Michael Leavitt will retire as the city manager of the City of Highland Village, effective October 1.

Sarah Novo is the new city manager of the City of Flatonia.

Deck Shaver is serving as the interim city manager of the City of Kenedy.

Robert Wood is the new interim city manager of the City of Bastrop.

Yousry "Yost" Zakhary is the new city manager of the City of Bellmead.

volunteer for a TCMA Committee 

Volunteers are needed to serve on TCMA committees. Service on committees will begin at the end of the 2020 TCMA Annual Conference (June 4-7, 2020) and conclude at the end of the 2021 TCMA Annual Conference (June 10-13, 2021). The TCMA committees include Advocacy, City Managers of Tomorrow, Ethics, Membership, Nominating, and Professional Development. For current committee lists and a description of responsibilities, please visit the TCMA website.

Please note the City Managers of Tomorrow Committee will continue with the current members. If you are interested in learning more about the Managers in Residence Program, click here or contact Tristan Gideon at tristan@tml.org or 512-231-7453.

The TCMA president-elect will make the final determination of the assignments to ensure statewide representation on each committee.

To volunteer, please click Committee Survey. The deadline to complete the survey is April 17.

New Members

The TCMA Management Messenger welcomes the following new members approved by the Executive Board on March 23, 2020.

Full: Sonny Campbell, City Manager, Anson; Eric Foerster, City Manager, Richwood; Sidonna Foust, Assistant City Manager, Haltom City; Kurt Grant, Local Government Services Specialist, Panhandle Regional Planning Commission; Hilda Pedraza, Assistant City Manager/City Clerk, Pharr; Krisha Perkins, City Manager, Lake Tanglewood; Carlos Sanchez, Assistant City Manager, Harlingen; Lon Squyres, City Manager, Jacinto City; Robert Swisher, City Administrator, Linden; Steven Viera, Assistant City Manager, Corpus Christi

Associate: Elvira Alonzo, Public Works Director, McAllen; Meagan Borth, Assistant to the City Manager, Lake Jackson

Student: Ashley Chacon, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; Lydia Emery, Texas State University; Jason Garza, St. Mary’s University; Jasmine Johnson, The University of Texas at Dallas; Mark McHenry, the University of North Texas; Ronnie Wilson Jr., St. Mary’s University;  Students from The University of Texas at Austin include: Caitlin Casassa, Anna Gu, John Guttman, Alyssa Hedge, Teresa Parlett, Federico Rodriguez, Jasmine Triplett, Tatum Troutt;  Students from The University of Texas at San Antonio include: Joshua Alfaro, Christy Barr, Tyler Campbell, Daniella Castillo, Armando Cruz, Sarah Larios, Ben Pelayo, Christopher Rodriguez, Erica Tomsic.

New Member Applications

The current TCMA Board policy requires that names of new member applicants be published each month in the Management Messenger. Any written objection during the subsequent 30-day period will be reviewed by the Membership Committee. If no objections are received during this time, the names will be submitted to the Executive Committee for approval. Written objections can be mailed to TCMA, Attention: Membership Committee, 1821 Rutherford Lane, Suite 400, Austin, TX 78754. Applications received in the month of March:

Full: Steve Bowlin, City Administrator, Electra

Associate:  Mayra Cantu, Management Analyst, Georgetown; Raymond Lee III, Director of Public Works, Amarillo; Christopher Looney, Director of Planning and Development Services, New Braunfels; Kathleen Stewart, Director of Town Services, Highland Park; Luis Zamarron, Jr., Assistant to the City Manager, Castle Hill

Cooperating: Dr. Thomas Longoria, Professor, Texas State University

meet your colleagues

The TCMA Management Messenger welcomes Eric Foerster to his new position as the city manager of the City of Richwood. Eric’s appointment began on February 18, 2020. He previously served as chief of police in various cities across Texas for the past 13 years. He has also served as an interim city manager, interim public works director, and emergency management coordinator. Eric was a former flight instructor and chief pilot before entering his career in public service.

Eric received his associate’s degree from Howard College, his bachelor’s degree and master’s in public administration from Bellevue University, as well as earning a certified public manager designation through Arizona State University.

Eric and his wife, Amy, have been married 25 years and have one son, Spencer. Eric enjoys hunting, fishing, and all LSU sports.

The TCMA Management Messenger also introduces and welcomes Cynthia Northrop to her new position as the city administrator of the City of Rhome. Cynthia’s appointment began on February 3, 2020. Her experience spans all levels of government. She has served as an elected official in city and county governments, a small businesswoman, and most recently in management positions in the cities of Alvin and Dayton.

Cynthia holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Texas and will graduate from the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs Certified Public Manager program in the summer of 2020. She brings extensive experience in transportation, having served as Denton County Commissioners Court representative on the Regional Transportation Council, the region’s MPO, for seven years.

Cynthia is a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor, teaching and training in her spare time. She is also a musician with several self-produced CDs. She enjoys reading, history, and playing piano.

member news

Randy Perez CM City of MissionRandy Perez, city manager of the City of Mission, was named to the Rio Grande Valley "Walk of Fame" for his leadership and contributions to citizens in South Texas. Randy has served the City of Mission for 18 years in various positions. To read the full story, click here.

immigration at our back door:
implementing solutions in the rio grande valley

The world watched in 2015 as over a 1,000,000 people migrated through Europe to reach countries such as Greece, Germany, Sweden, and many others to flee economic turmoil, political oppression, and violence. These migrants crossed over seas and many borders in their pursuit for freedom and safety. The main goal of those fleeing was to obtain asylum in European countries. Media attention illustrated that European countries receiving migrants were ill prepared for such situations.

Pause, for just a moment, and reflect on the fact that Texas has an extensive border with the country of Mexico. Texas and Mexico share a 1,254 miles common border and are linked by 28 international bridges and border crossings. How would public administrators and elected officials handle a situation of mass migration of asylum seekers across the Texas-Mexico border? In 2019, we learned much about the response of border officials by following the responses of border city managers. According to United States Customs and Border Enforcement, in 2019, from January through August, over 33,000 unaccompanied children and over 205,000 family units were apprehended by the Rio Grande Sector of United States Customs and Border Protection.

Initially, the situation might be viewed as a federal problem with a minimal local role. However, peeling back the layers of responsibility there is a significant local role. For example, the United States Customs and Border Protection agency releases asylum-seeking migrants onto public streets of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). One may ask: “Who is left to manage the challenge of the released migrants waiting to be heard by the federal system?”

In light of this context, professional managers in the RGV undertook this challenge as an emergency management problem. In a survey and through personal interviews, we learned that professional managers responded to the challenge under stressful situations to facilitate the needs of individuals seeking asylum while protecting residents and commercial interests. The major thrust of the emergency management approach occurred in the largest cities in the RGV -McAllen, Harlingen and Brownsville. We learned, for example, that two of these cities began tracking all personnel and material costs at the very start of the migrant waves. This occurred without any clear understanding that costs would be reimbursed but were grounded in emergency management plans and doctrine.

We also observed professional managers adhering to the TCMA Code of Ethics, specifically Tenet 4: Serve the best interests of the people. In this case, the definition of people is inclusive of residents and commercial business owners along with the individuals seeking asylum. Once an asylum seeker has been processed under federal law after entering the United States, they are legal to stay in the United States until their respective hearing is adjudicated. In interviews conducted, we also observed that public managers adhered to the highest level of tenet guidelines:

Impacts of Decisions: Members should inform their governing body of the anticipated effects of a decision on people in their jurisdictions, especially if specific groups may be disproportionately harmed or helped.

 In viewing the study data, it is noteworthy to capture the qualities of professionalism that existed in the assistance of these asylum seekers. These included both the outward actions of professional managers in carrying out their responsibilities to serve the best interests of the people, i.e. within their communities, and also the humanity and dignity of the asylum seekers. Each professional manager we interviewed noted extensive work informing city council and seeking their assistance in helping explain and clarify how and why cities were getting involved.

Cities utilized a variety of models to deal with the influx of asylum-seekers on a daily basis. For example, during the spring of 2019, an average of 1,000 migrants were arriving each day. Entities were mobilized to provide facilities to house individuals once they were processed and provided bus transportation from their entity to the final destination of the migrants. Based upon the survey results, various approaches were given to accomplish this task were observed. Some cities utilized not for profits to assist in providing temporary housing. Other entities created a hybrid of public/private/not for profits scenarios to manage this task. Regardless of the approach, daily expenditure accounts were maintained for possible reimbursements from federal sources and to justify these efforts to elected bodies and the public.

Information gathered from public officials stressed the vital need to communicate daily within their respective organizations. In fact, one official noted that daily text messages were provided to elected officials due to the heightened awareness of the local community and news media coverage so that at any point in time, these officials could say how many and where these migrants were located within the city limits. Another official maintained that the situation involving asylum-seekers was not a political issue but a service delivery issue with the effort on determining the best way to deliver services given the city’s resources. While one official cited being proud of the humanitarian side of these efforts, the emphasis was on public management. Professional management and emergency management roles were emphasized to minimize the “crisis” as the migrants were depicted in the media and among some federal, state, and local political actors.

In conclusion, professional managers relied on their abilities to facilitate the situation in a positive manner and adapted existing tools and strategies while also adhering to the professional ethics that guide city managers.

(Article submitted by John R. Milford, Senior Lecturer, Graduate Professional Practitioner Coordinator-Certified Public Manager Program, College of Liberal Arts, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Edinburg Campus, and Dr. Thomas Longoria, Professor, Department of Political Science, Texas State University)

ethics corner

Ethical Challenges of Vendor Relationships

Cities are always looking for ways to improve operations and upgrade infrastructure while making sure they are fiscally responsible in the process. This involves the inevitable process of technology/solution analysis and contact with Vendors. Every salesperson knows that people buy from people they trust, especially when it comes to complex or new solutions. Trust can only be developed over time and with actual contact, meetings, time spent getting to know the technology, the company providing the solution, and, most importantly, the local team supporting it.

Let’s take a look at two scenarios based on actual events.

Scenario 1

How do the vendors and city staff accomplish this learning from vendors, maintaining the public trust and avoiding what appears to be gaining a benefit within the guidelines of Tenet 12 of the TCMA Code of Ethics which reads: “Public office is a public trust. A member shall not leverage his or him position for personal gain or benefit?” Maintaining the public’s trust is critical, yet increasingly difficult in today’s world of watch dog activism.

Shane, a manager of a mid-sized Texas city, gets calls all day long to meet with vendors and just doesn’t have the time. The marketing brochures all sound the same, and it is difficult to differentiate one vendor from another. Wanting to better understand an offering that would help save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, Shane accepts a lunch meeting to discuss it further without interruptions. Knowing that Tenet 12 clearly identifies meals as gifts, he makes it clear that he will pay for his own lunch. The meeting is informative. Shane works with the city attorney and purchasing agent to make sure the selection process follows the city and state’s requirements. City council approves a vendor that is the same vendor Shane met with for lunch. Staff initiates the pilot program to test its success before jumping into it with both feet.

In the meantime, a citizen has approached a councilmember to express disapproval of the city’s selection based on “lunch meetings.” Apparently, this citizen was at the restaurant and at the city council meeting and recognized the vendor as having had lunch with Shane about two months ago! Now Shane has been put in a position of having to clarify something that was done correctly. The project is put on hold as this seemingly normal lunch has created a multi-week clarification process before the city council gives the approval to proceed as originally approved. 

Perceptions matter. Fortunately, Shane has always had a reputation for ethical behavior, being trusted to do the right thing in past actions. Perceptions can cost a manager their hard-earned trust in the community and delay valuable projects. Managers must always keep this in mind when they are out in their communities. Fortunately, a reputation of ethical behavior can afford a manager the opportunity to illustrate to the community that all was above board. As in this case, it took time, but Shane was able to show the process requirements in city policies and state laws and regulations, receipts, various documents, and the meetings open to the public. However, what seems to be a small item (eating lunch with a vendor), turned into a big delay, and allowed darts to be thrown at Shane. When a manager behaves ethically, worrying about the truth getting out is not a problem, but perception can cause a problem. So, setting the standards or bar a bit higher and not being tempted to do just what is legal or legitimate is not always enough.

So, how can vendors develop trust with managers and vice versa? It is not easy, and certainly takes time. Managers need to make time to meet with vendors - not all of them, but start with the ones that have proven themselves with other cities. And multiple vendors on the same product, services or programs.  Include staff.  Check references before setting up meetings. And keep in mind that vendors are not the enemy - they can be valuable resources and extensions of city staff providing valuable information as you develop programs, services, or learn of products.

This leads into the second scenario and making sure the education and learning goes both ways, especially in educating the vendor on the TCMA Code of Ethics.

Scenario 2

Tenet 12 (Endorsement Guideline):

“Members should not endorse commercial products or services by agreeing to use their photograph, endorsement, or quotation in paid or other commercial advertisements, marketing materials, social media, or other documents, whether the member is compensated or not for the member’s support. Members may, however, provide verbal professional references as part of the due diligence phase of competitive process or in response to a direct inquiry.”

Karen is a city manager and a prolific note writer.  If someone does a good job, she wants them to know it with a short, handwritten note or at least an email.  Karen’s city really benefited from some great work by a vendor many years ago.  Karen wrote a letter to the company praising the great work of the local team and giving sincere thanks for a job well done.

The company was so thrilled to get a personal acknowledgement of their professionalism and dedication that they decided to use the letter, as is, in an ad in an industry magazine!  A colleague saw the ad and called Karen to see if she had seen the ad and approved it.  Karen was shocked. She thought she was simply letting a good team know that she appreciated the value of what they accomplished for the city.  She did not violate Tenet 12, but the vendor, not knowingly, made it appear as if Karen did.

It is up to managers to teach and advise vendors about our Code of Ethics. Knowledgeable vendors can play an important role in helping cities achieve their infrastructure, safety, financial, and growth goals.  Vendors that understand and actively abide by our Code of Ethics will make better solution partners. How can vendors understand our situation if we do not take the time to teach them about our foundation of ethics?  If we were not in city government and someone praised us, we would not be inclined to tell everyone about what was said?  Private sector behaves differently than public sector and we need to realize what is not acceptable in the public sector is often acceptable in the private sector. So, when the two do business together, we need to educate each other. Especially in the world of social media, when we give a note of praise, we may need to let the private sector vendor know there are limited ways that praise can be used in that same note.

(Article submitted by Corby Alexander, City Manager, La Porte and Kevin Evans, City Manager, McGregor)

TCMA Educational Events

TCMA Annual Conference
June 4-7, 2020
South Padre Island

#ELGL Inspire: TCMA-ELGL Joint Events

We will be back for the fall semester. Stay tuned for more information.

Tex-ICMA Coaching Webinars
(Pre-registration is required)

Workplace Conduct: How to Deal with Water Cooler Talk
12:30-2:00 p.m., Thursday, April 30

Managing and Mastering Council-Staff Relationships: The Nuance of Governance
12:30-2:00 p.m., Thursday, May 21

Lessons in Value-Based Leadership: Leading with Principle
12:30-2:00 p.m., Thursday, June 18

Managing Hostility in Public Discourse: Living in an Age of Anger
12:30-2:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 9

Charting Your Future: Developing Your Personal Strategic Plan
12:30-2:00 p.m., Thursday, October 22

Talent Management in the 21st Century: Growing, Attracting, and Retaining Your Best
12:30-2:00 p.m., Thursday, November 12

Memos on Meetings

The Board is scheduled to meet on April 3 via video conference.

The Membership Committee is scheduled to meet on April 17 via conference call.

All information is current as of the 25th of the month prior to publication.

In-Transition Services
To see if you qualify for TCMA 
In-transition Services, please 
click here. For a list of current city management job openings in Texas click here.

Career Compass
Career Compass is a monthly column addressing career issues for local governmental professional staff. To view current and past articles, please click here.

Additional Resources
Visit icma.org for additional training opportunities, resources, and advancement of professional local government around the globe. 

If  you have some interesting news that you would like to see included in the Management Messenger, please email messenger@tml.org.