Updates to the TCMA Code of Ethics
2020 TCMA Professional Awards and Scholarships
Dealing with the COVID-19 Tragedy from a City Manager’s Perspective
Campaign to Promote Professional and Ethical City Management: COVID-19 Video Request
COVID-19 Document Share
New Member Applications
Membership Survey Results
Allies Across Texas Task Force Request
Meet Your Colleagues
Make a Difference
2020 TCMA Annual Conference
TCMA Educational Events
Memos on Meetings
Updates to the TCMA Code of Ethics
At the April 3 meeting, the TCMA Board adopted ICMA updates to Tenet 1 and Tenet 2. The updates also include a change to the Tenet 2 Guideline. The updated tenets and guideline are posted below, and a complete copy of the TCMA Code of Ethics is available at TCMA Code of Ethics.
Tenet 1 will now read: We believe professional management is essential to efficient and democratic local government by elected officials.
Tenet 2 will now read: Affirm the dignity and worth of local government services and maintain a deep sense of social responsibility as a trusted public servant.
Guideline: Advice to Officials of Other Local Governments. When members advise and respond to inquiries from elected or appointed officials of other local governments, they should inform the administrators of those communities.
2020 tcma professional awards and scholarships
Lifetime Achievement Award
This award recognizes the city management professional who has made significant contributions to the field of local government management for more than 20 years.
The Management Messenger recognizes Ron Bowman, city manager of the City of Boerne, as the 2020 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Ron began his career in public service as an administrative assistant with Boerne in 1980. He was appointed city administrator three years later, and in 1995 after the citizens of Boerne voted to become a home rule city, he became the first city manager. During his nearly 40 years of service, there have been new mayors and city councilmembers, growth pressures, and economic issues. Ron has faced them all with competence, compassion, and commitment.
During his tenure in Boerne, Ron has seen the population grow from 3,200 to over 11,000, the number of city staff grow from 46 to 200, and the annual budget grow to $65 million. There have been many city improvements including downtown revitalization projects; new fire and police stations; improvements to parks, city streets and sidewalks; and the opening of the city’s first skateboard park.
Ron has been an active member of TCMA, serving on various committees and as Region 8 president. He has received numerous awards including the Boerne Chamber Chairman’s Award in 2013, the Boerne Mason’s 2015 Community Builders Award, the LCRA Outstanding Service Award, and the 2016 Texas Public Power Association Gary Brown Service Award.
Region 8 is coordinating a meeting where colleagues will recognize and honor Ron for his service.
Administrator of the Year Award
The Administrator of the Year Award recognizes the city management professional who has made significant contributions to the field of local government management in the past 18 months.
The Management Messenger recognizes Kelly Kuenstler, city manager of the City of Leon Valley, as the 2020 recipient of the Administrator of the Year Award.
Kelly has more than 20 years of public management experience and has served as the city manager of the City of Leon Valley since 2015. During her time with the City, she has instilled a servant leadership approach, created innovative programs, and helped create a more cohesive team.
Examples of her contributions include establishing the OnIt Team, which is made up of department directors and assistant directors to address projects, code violations, and citizen concerns. The Team was able to resolve more than 300 resident concerns in the span of a year and create the Citizen’s Police Advisory Committee and The Neighborhood Officer Program to address neighborhood safety concerns and build better working relationships between officers and the community. In addition, Kelly and her team worked effortlessly to tackle the flooding hazards, resulting in the city being awarded the Texas Floodplain Management Excellence Award.
From coming up with creative ways to generate revenue for the city, helping raise money for worthy causes, and being tireless in her commitment, Kelly’s approach to city management has had an impact on many in Leon Valley.
Region 8 is coordinating a meeting where colleagues will recognize and honor Kelly for her service.
Mentoring Award in Memory of Gary Gwyn
The Mentoring Award in Memory of Gary Gwyn recognizes a city management professional who has made significant contributions in the development of new talent and who has designed and implemented outstanding career development programs for local government employees.
The Management Messenger recognizes the 2020 Mentoring Award recipient Kent Myers, city manager of the City of Fredericksburg. Kent has more than 30 years of public service experience and has made outstanding contributions to communities not only across Texas, but across the nation as well. He began his career in the City of Converse where he worked for eight years before serving in Arizona, Arkansas, and Washington. He has been the city manager of Fredericksburg for the last seven years. Kent is an active member of both TCMA and ICMA, serving on various committees and task forces.
Kent has shown his commitment to mentorship in many ways during his career. He developed an employee succession plan, including leadership training to identify future leaders within the organization and prepare them for promotional opportunities. Kent serves on the City Managers of Tomorrow Committee and has been an integral thought leader in mentoring college students and also serves as a Manager in Residence at The University of Texas at San Antonio. When asked, students said he is committed and willing to help those around him succeed. He is readily available to answer questions and extend a helping hand to future city managers.
Kent is currently working towards his PhD in leadership studies with a dissertation focusing on succession planning in local government.
Region 8 is coordinating a meeting where colleagues will recognize and honor Kent for his service.
Assistant of the Year Award in Memory of Valerie Bradley
On February 5, 2020 Valerie Bradley, former managing director of community services at the City of Mesquite, passed after her struggle with cancer. In recognition of her fierce advocacy for advancing ethical local government leadership and the mentorship of young professionals, the TCMA Board created an award in her honor.
Valerie served several years as vice chair of the TCMA Ethics Committee and was instrumental in developing and creating the online ethics training courses as well as the Ethics Train the Trainer course. Valerie was a past president of Urban Management Assistants of North Texas and a graduate of Leadership ICMA.
Valerie knew of the honor before she passed away, and it put a smile on her face. Although her departure from a career in local government was earlier than anticipated, there is no doubt she left a lasting impact on the city management profession through her work on ethics, in her role as an assistant, and as a mentor to emerging leaders.
A special presentation will be arranged where her husband Rob and son Jake can be honored.
Congratulations 2020 Scholarship Recipients
The TCMA Management Messenger recognizes the following scholarship recipients.
2020 Certified Public Manager Scholarship: Robert Dalton Rice, Management Analyst, Mont Belvieu
2020 Clarence E. Ridley Scholarship: Crayton Brubaker, Texas A&M University; Vivian Fung, The University of Texas-Arlington; and Jasmine Johnson, The University of Texas-Dallas
2020 Tom Muehlenbeck Scholarship: Brooke Meismer, daughter of Kimberly Meismer, Executive Director for General Operations, Kerrville; and Helaina Musa, daughter of Murvat Musa, Executive Director, Lubbock Reese Redevelopment Authority
dealing with the covid-19 tragedy from a city manager’s perspective
The news of COVID-19 filtered its way to me the same way it did to most all Americans. At first, it was just a mention in the news. From there, the glimpse of the spread was of concern, and when it made landfall in America, the realization started to set in. Like many people, I saw our optimistic view that it’s just a puddle of misinformation give way to "oh man" this is a real thing. When the suggestions to improve your hygiene/wash your hands suggestions turned into social distancing and then to stay at home, work safe orders, I think we all realized that this was here and was going to take a toll on us all.
The first thing I realized was that I needed to communicate whatever information came to me to the mayor. Our mayor is a past president of the Texas League past president and a member the National League of Cities Board of Directors. The stream of information that I was providing to her seemed as though it was coming from a six-inch fire hose. She in turn was receiving information and returning it to me, asking for my interpretation of how it affected the citizens of the City of Live Oak, which at the time seemed so disconnected from the issues we were facing.
Days later, I realized that I was neglecting a large group who were also concerned, the remainder of the city council. I was taking the easy road for information distribution, simply passing it on as it came to me, but I realized this was not going to work. I began to condense all information that I received in any given day into a memo to distribute to the council as a body. There were times, however, I would include too much information in these memos, including management decisions that I was dealing with. Who should be staying home? How are we protecting our police officers? Should our code officers be going to doors and identifying violations? I realized that I was flooding them with information when there were other things that were more significant going on in their lives. It almost came across to council as if I was looking for a decision from them when really I was airing out my thoughts. We all learned to deal with my ramblings on the electronic format, and it paid dividends.
Then, there were citizens who needed to hear the information. As with any communication to them, I knew full well that half were going to think we were going overboard and half were going to think we weren’t doing enough. To some degree, we have put ourselves in this predicament. We have bolstered our Facebook popularity to an extreme, knowing that it would take immense patience to manage that presence because we always have opponents and supporters. I know many cities disable comments, or think that they can just not respond to comments, but to me, it is "just a conversation." There will be those who do not agree with you and some who do, but we cannot just turn our back and walk away from a conversation in this business. We have always tackled issues, posted them right up front with a thought provoking picture, and waited for the repercussions knowing that, in the end, we did what we needed to do to inform our residents and followers.
Finally, two weeks into the crisis, I had employees in all stages of precaution and necessity; some employees working from home, some employees working overtime, and many just in their offices, hiding behind the imaginary barrier of a desk. It was brought to my attention that I had not been doing a good enough job of keeping the front-line folks informed of the City’s response to the virus. Looking back, I remember focusing on the potential danger of cross exposing them or their health affecting me. In reality, it was important for me to maintain that one-on-one contact (safely, of course). We had an incident in which a police officer was assaulted, and I walked into our hospital waiting room to show three police officers that I was supportive of them even though the hospital was caring for patients with coronavirus. I crafted a city-wide email letting everyone know that, "we are here to support you if you need anything," and continued to journey to the far end of the complex to talk to fire fighters, who also took my temperature to make sure that I was healthy. All of this paid dividends for morale, and actually made me feel like we were handling "business as usual."
Management of Information
Praise be to the county judge. Bexar County has the fortune of having a county judge that would, in any camp, be considered a sage. Judge Wolff has provided dignified leadership for many years on a great many topics and has the ability to make people listen when he speaks. He appointed a special assistant, Seth Mitchell, to manage the crisis who, in my opinion, did an outstanding job. Seth took it upon himself to share information from the various agencies that were providing assistance. He shared information on small business assistance, medical trends, and federal assistance guidance, to name a few. Early on, I felt like I was given too much information, but later in the day when I could settle into the emails, I often found myself forwarding information to those within the departments who needed it.
Dealing with Tragedy
I will deal with this topic very cautiously. The impact of this virus didn’t fully hit me until it became personal. We were two weeks into the COVID-19 crisis, and I still had not yet known anyone who had been stricken with it. That changed after a phone call from our police chief followed by a call from our fire chief stating that they each had officers on the scene of a COVID-19 positive house with a victim who was gravely ill. We were made aware of the condition of the house through the regional dispatch for the EMS provider, so we had no personnel who were exposed, but the facts of the case were no less tragic. "Scott, this is one of our councilmembers" is how the information hit me. The next blow sat me down in my chair, "His partner also has it and is on a ventilator." His partner was a board member of our Economic Development Corporation.
The feeling of "we are doing a great job fighting this" turned into "what are we going to do now?" We were not doing a good job of fighting it; we were just getting by. I knew what I had to do next. It led to the hardest conversations that I have ever had with five remaining councilmembers. What was the hardest conversation, quickly turned into the second hardest conversation because during staff meeting, on April 13, the day after Easter, at 9:30 a.m. I received the call that the EDC board member succumbed to the disease and the outlook was bleak for the councilmember. Two days later, our councilmember, a 52-year old healthy military reservist also passed.
Looking for ways that we could have handled this tragic event better was pretty easy. The councilmember had recently lost both his mother and father. We quickly realized that we had no information on his family, or how to get information on someone who was in the hospital. Calls to our hospital CEO were also unsuccessful because of all the HIPPA requirements they have in place. It was decided that, in the future, we would institute an information sheet that has emergency contacts and other information, and we would try to keep it current for every councilmember. Issuing a statement about the loss of the councilmember, we realized how little we knew about his life. We didn’t know for sure if he was a reservist or active duty. We knew that at one time, he had worked for the City of San Antonio, but we didn’t know if he was still on their payroll or not. We only really knew what he chose to share with us through our official dealings with him at the City. This really drove home the fact that we are all busy with important City issues, but we need to make sure to keep up with those who are serving alongside us. We will be more diligent in keeping information on our seated members so we are better prepared for the future.
Understanding People’s Problems
At the same time, we were dealing with economic hits. Live Oak has a significant retail engine that drives our economy. In Bexar County, for a small town of 15,000 population, we are second only to San Antonio in terms of sales tax proceeds. That is not based on percentage, but hard dollars received. Of course, being very reliant on sales tax means that events like this have a greater impact on our budget than other cities. It started with restaurants no longer allowing people to dine in and bars were forced to shut down. Our retail establishments were at first told to social distance, which quickly turned curbside service, and finally to shuttering doors for all customers. The final hope was dashed when IKEA, that big blue and yellow juggernaut on the hill that symbolized so much success for the City when it opened a year ago, closed its doors.
All of this led to people being out of work, residents not being able to get needed supplies, and so many people having to suffer through the fear of life being altered, regarding both their health and their finances. No amount of "no water cut offs" and "forgiveness of permit fees" will bring enough comfort to residents who are truly hurting.
We quickly turned to ways to help our small business. For years, the City of Live Oak has purchased water rights from our sales tax proceeds through our EDC. This year, we had $300,000 set aside to buy roughly 50 more acre-feet of water, but we decided to instead spend that money on small business grants to help with revenue losses. This program received overwhelming support and our EDC went to work helping those who have helped them for so long. We also chose to allow restaurants to utilize parking spaces for outdoor dining to provide opportunities for additional business.
Taking Care of Yourself
I underestimated how this pandemic and its accompanying threat was going to affect me on a personal level. Most who know me know that my daughter is working her way up through the city management profession and currently serves under Amber Lewis at the City of Rollingwood. In my opinion, Amber is one of the best city managers in the business and she issued a work from home order for many employees early, providing me great comfort. They had the systems already in place to send some employees home immediately, where they could still provide support to those that needed to be on the front line as well as make it easier for those still in the office to social distance. Being prepared to act quickly and take steps like this without fear of lost productivity is something we can all work on.
I had never given too much thought to how I deal with stress and realized quickly that my local Gold’s Gym closing took away my noon workout. Two weeks into it, I realized that I was getting a little chubby but our fire fighters seemed to be staying in great shape. They had a fully equipped gym and didn’t mind sharing it with me, with extra precautions being taken of course. Checking in with myself became important, and was a simple reminder that others are all experiencing this situation in their own way.
At the end of those hard days, the faith and friendships that I had with other local government managers from our region really helped me through some hard times. Kim Turner with the City of Universal City and Johnny Casias with the City of Selma were the second and third alternates when I was done talking to David Harris with the City of Balcones Heights. These professionals not only turned into impressive advice givers, but friends whom I could turn to when I was questioning decisions or just needed to talk to someone that was also facing what I was.
Realizing That It Is Bigger Than You Can Control
At times, I found that the global issue that was overwhelming for our departments, and the decision-making function concerning city services, turned into a very time-consuming process. Do we close city hall doors? Do we block access to court? Do we shut down parks for Easter? What employees can work from home, and should cops respond to EMS calls? I relied on the professional advice of the department heads to answer these questions, and they made some very sound decisions. I found great comfort in being able to lean on my support staff, who are experts in their field. This issue is bigger than any of us can handle alone, and I am thankful I have a full team of reliable people that will get the job done.
The question of "how to recover from something like this" is one that will be answered over the course of the next six months. Luckily, we went into the fiscal year with stellar sales tax proceeds. The sales taxes reported to the city are two months in the arears, so we will not actually know where we are at until June. Property taxes will also be a huge issue as we budget for next year, due to the legislature limiting cities’ ability to increase property tax revenues from one year to the next. Last year’s Senate Bill 2 still has so many unknowns that most cities are worried about how they can increase property tax revenues to make up for short falls in other sources of revenue. Realizing our sales tax dependency is fragile, we have maintained a great reserve in our general fund, but many cities do not have this cushion to fall back on, which will be problematic for them moving forward.
What has happened has been unprecedented. We were absolutely not prepared for it. What is to come will be unlike anything we have experienced before. Nevertheless, we are doing our best to continue to provide essential services to our residents and to go above and beyond where we can. There are a few big lessons that I have learned so far, though I’m sure there are many more to come.
First, communicating with your people is the key to getting through this. This includes knowing and taking care of the employees. Listen to what they need and be open to new ways to support them during times of tragedy and uncertainty. I know I’ve never been a fan of teleworking but putting the safety of others first and trying to understand what we can to do to make them feel safe can require us to try new things.
Second, though this has been more of a personal lesson for me, is when planning the re-opening of our cities and communities, let’s think about what parts of the old normal will make it into the new normal. Being kind and understanding to those we work with and for is a necessity. This is a more obvious approach when there is a catastrophic event taking place, because we never really know what is going on in someone’s life. This is and has been the best way to approach all of my communication and dealings with others. Washing my hands every 20 minutes; yeah, that will be part of the new normal as well. Accepting the things we can’t change, and understanding that some things are just too big to manage alone, is also something that I will need to practice for years to come. What will you take with you from this event?
And finally, you’re not alone. There are other people out there that are dealing with this, and they’ll likely be happy to take your call. "We are all in this together" has never been more true, even if we can’t physically be together. If you need anything or there’s any way I can help you, please reach out to me. If you have any advice for me on how to proceed in these uncertain times, please give me a call. At the same time, stay in touch with any fellow managers you can trust. We are all in this together.
(Submitted by Scott Wayman, City Manager, City of Live Oak)
campaign to promote professional and ethical city management: covid-19 video request
At the April 3 board meeting, the video production team TCMA hired for the advocacy campaign to promote professional and ethical city management, recommended that cities begin doing some video documentation of how they are dealing with the coronavirus crisis.
The pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for city governments and the ability of managers to protect the health and safety of their residents and employees while maintaining vital public services. At some point in the future, you may want to give your residents a video report with a behind-the-scenes look at their city manager and city departments dealing with the difficult issues of providing services and keeping people safe. And, it would be very helpful to have the video for possible use in our advocacy campaign.
The video producers are not recommending anything disruptive or that would take anyone away from the work that needs to be done – just occasionally shooting a couple of minutes of video of things like a meeting in your command center, the city manager conducting an online video meeting, protective gear being distributed to personnel or city workers wearing masks and observing social distancing. It can be shot without sound, if you prefer not recording conversations, and even shot on a mobile phone (held horizontally and not vertically) if you don’t have any other video production capacity.
Right now, managers and city departments are doing an amazing job under tremendous pressure. Professional management has never been more important for saving lives and meeting the needs of Texans. It’s a story that needs to be told vividly when people look back on this time.
Please upload your video clips to Dropbox or Google Drive then email the link to Margie Becker at email@example.com no later than May 15.
covid-19 document share
On April 16, the TCMA Executive Board hosted a meeting with the membership to discuss how cities are working through the coronavirus crisis. Members submitted documents to share and can be found at COVID-19 Document Share. If you have documents you would like to include, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stephen Barnes is serving as the city manager of the City of Hughes Springs.
Laura Beeson is the new city administrator of the City of Eden.
Gary Broz is the new city manager of the City of Edna.
Nick Haby is the new city administrator of the City of Meadows Place.
Britt Lusk is the new city manager of the City of Pilot Point.
Mario Martinez is the new city manager of the City of Petersburg.
Michael Montgomery is no longer the town administrator of the Town of Bartonville.
Tammy Dixon (town secretary) is serving as the interim town administrator.
Sean Overeynder is the new city manager of the City of Lamesa.
Michele Wardlaw is the new city administrator of the City of Mertzon.
Jody Weaver is serving as the interim city manager of the City of Port Lavaca.
David Willard is serving as the interim city manager of the City of Ennis.
Laura Willhelm is the new city administrator of the City of Grandfalls.
Brooks Williams is serving as the city manager of the City of Ferris.
Andy Wolfe is serving as the city administrator of the City of Venus.
The TCMA Management Messenger welcomes the following new members approved by the Executive Board on April 24, 2020.
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
Student: James Regan, Texas State University
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 April:
Full: Britt Lusk, City Manager, Pilot Point; Michael Rodriguez, Chief of Staff, Corpus Christi
Associate: Christopher Copple, Director of Development Services, Cedar Park
Cooperating : Michael Grace, Director Unincorporated Area Services, Dallas County; Miles Haynes, Marketing Director, Altus Health
membership survey Results
Every two years, the TCMA membership has the opportunity to provide feedback to the Board to assist with the strategic planning process. There were 1165 surveys distributed with 398 responses (34 percent). The survey results are available at
TCMA Membership Survey.
allies across texas task force request
An objective of the 2018-2020 TCMA Strategic Plan is to increase the level of diversity in membership and training programs by 10 percent. To help the Allies Across Texas Task Force measure progress, it’s important to have accurate and updated demographic information. Please take time to review and update your membership information by logging into your account at https://members.tml.org/web/online.
If you have questions, please contact Task Force Chair Noel Bernal at email@example.com or Vice Chair Debbie Maynor at firstname.lastname@example.org. For technical assistance, contact Kim Pendergraft at email@example.com. Thank you for your service.
meet your COLLEAGUES
The TCMA Management Messenger welcomes Robert Eads to his new position as the city manager of the City of Laredo. Robert’s appointment began in March. He previously served as the City’s co-interim city manager. Robert has also served as assistant city manager and city manager of the City of Del Rio, and city manager of the City of San Luis, Arizona. In addition, he served 10 years as the chief operations officer/vice president of the Laredo Chamber of Commerce.
Robert holds a Bachelor of Science in computer information systems and a Master of Business Administration from Sul Ross State University. He is a proud former United States Marine, serving from 1993-1998 in counterintelligence as a signal intelligence analyst. He held a top secret clearance with additional special compartment information designations and was later honorably discharged after his tour of duty.
Robert has received numerous awards including: the 2012 Government Hispanic Business Advocate of the Year from the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC), the 2011 Innovation Award from the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce, as well as the 2011 Administrator of the Year from the Del Rio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He recently received the “Credentialed City Manager” designation from the International City/County Management Association. He is one of 96 city managers in the state of Texas with this credential and is the only ICMA Certified Manager in the City of Laredo.
He is most proud to be a husband to his wife, Lupita, and a father of his 25-year-old son Rudy Vedia, and his 12-year-old son Robert Eads Jr.
make a difference
The walls of the valley appeared beautiful and majestic on that sun filled day. The warm spring breeze was gently pushing the leaves along the branches while the perfume of nature circulated in the air. However, the splendor of the scene was lost amongst the echoes of gunfire on the unaware soldiers below. The team maneuvered in a calculated manner while panic and fear hid behind their eyes. As the situation ended, goodbyes were whispered, and the team remained silent in an alert position on the valley floor. They remained a collective unit, albeit in a heightened state, while waiting on reinforcements and planning their next move. Afghanistan is a harsh place and the adversity of combat in an unforgiving environment tries the resolve of even the most hardened veterans.
Adversity exists in many forms and challenges and affects persons in every walk of life. Overcoming adversity is the most basic definition of success in all fields, especially when it feels like we encounter it everywhere and often every day. When it comes to growing professionally and advancing our careers, overcoming adversity is a hindrance, but also a character-building opportunity. Our climbs can have steep slopes, or they can be gradual, but they both have the incline in common. Having someone assist you in reaching the pinnacle is where we all can play a role and I hope you take the time to do that. Whether you know it or not the smallest nudge goes a long way.
I am certain that your success was not accomplished alone, but with the assistance of one, two, or many people. Those shared moments in your professional life are probably not lost with you either as you can probably recall those specific times where someone guided you to the appropriate path. We only bring to the table our experiences and education. Sometimes that is enough; more often though assistance is needed. Some call it networking, others mentoring. Whatever your term, it is a powerful tool to help manage those inclines. I am consistently humbled when I reach out to others to gain their perspective and find value in what their experiences have taught them.
I have yet to find someone in our profession that hesitates to share in an effort to help someone else. What we fail to realize when we are cautious or reluctant in seeking help, is that the mentor often finds great satisfaction in serving others. If nothing else, city managers are servants at heart. My two careers have been aided by people like you, who took the time to teach and I would like to share a quick snapshot of the journey. I hope it resonates with how impactful your influence is, or can be, on someone.
That day in the valley was a hard day for me, but I am thankful I had someone prepare me for stressful and life changing moments. I was fortunate to have a command sergeant major that saw something in me. He provided me with insight and a not so subtle kick in the pants every now and then. I can still hear his sage advice, telling me not to waste talent on short-term fame but to listen to your elders and peers; learn from their experience. Then, take that newfound knowledge and pass it on to others as you grow, because it will have a larger impact on the world than one victory.
I retired from the military in 2012, and started my municipal government career at the City of Arlington, which is my hometown. I, again, was blessed to have someone help me start ascending a new hill. Arlington’s leadership introduced me to TCMA, NTCMA, assistant groups, and the CPM program. My supervisor gave me the flexibility I needed to get involved in professional development. These initial interactions grew into a very large network of people and put me in a position to get involved with TCMA committees and young professional groups. My passion and their support led me to serve in a leadership role with an assistant group. Yes, I had to act on the advice given to me, but it put things in motion that I was otherwise not aware of.
Service in TCMA has been fulfilling and rewarding, but this is not a sales pitch for the organization. Instead, I want to recognize the people involved in growing our profession through this organization. The group of managers advising me acted in good faith and provided direction. They also shared horror stories, so I knew the profession has its ups and downs. Some stories made me question if this was the right career choice, others were comical, but they were all learning points.
One learning point given to me was to be certain of which public land you are selling; you could accidentally be letting go of a city park. Another point was to interview as much as possible so that I could discover what councils are looking for and to fine tune my personal presentation. This was not much different than the military where my leadership had me do Soldier of the Month boards quarterly. Someone was preparing me. Tangent aside, I did, and after approximately 25 interviews, I was given the chance (side note: I turned down two jobs, but that is a topic for another article).
I took my first city manager job in 2015, and I thought I was ready for it all. I led troops through combat, had studied everything I thought I needed to know, and which people I should know; all of which led to an overconfident rookie. Boy was I wrong, and man I was humbled. That same group of people that helped during the high times was also there to pick me up. The first two years were hard, and I needed to hear hard truths as well as learn new ideas. Luckily, my peers were there to pass on their growing pains to me. It is not enough to just hear the great inspirational aspects that help you get to the peak. You need to find out how to overcome obstacles along the path, even if some of those hurdles are you.
I am now five years into my first city manager job, and I could not be happier to be in the profession. I owe these five years to those of you who believed in me and helped me reach my career aspirations. It was not just one manager; it was a community of managers that helped one individual blossom. I do not take it for granted, and I give you my word I will help pass it on.
For those out there that have experience in the field, know that you can make a difference. Remember, the only difference between ordinary and extraordinary is the little extra. You can be that little extra. For those looking to get into city management, do not be scared to go out on the branch that is where the fruit is. You have people around you that will help you get it or catch you if you fall.
(Article submitted by Jason E. Reynolds, City Manager, Nassau Bay)
Ethics in the midst of crisis
Situations change, but identities don’t
TCMA President Kenneth Williams’ encouraging words in his Message from the President in the April Management Messenger were as inspirational as they were timely. He reminded managers, past, present, and future, of their unique roles during challenging times. His message emphasized a re-dedication to ethics, especially during those times when others are looking to local government for leadership. Ethics should never be solely a concern for “normal” times.
Managers really are all in this together
Local government officials and their emergency management teams most certainly prepare for a wide range of emergency scenarios: floods, tornadoes, train derailments, gas leaks, major fires, chemical leaks, and mass shootings. City staffs prepare and practice for many of these disasters, even if they have not actually occurred yet. A plan exists for communicating with the public during these disasters. Mayors and other elected officials have been briefed on and prepared for their role should a disaster declaration be necessary. Those exercises, real or practiced, certainly have helped prepare for a coherent response to emergencies – including a global pandemic.
It matters little that few jurisdictions in Texas have actively practiced for a global pandemic. Cities have sent firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and even public works employees into flooded streets and flooded homes, but never to homes occupied by infected persons. Until a few weeks ago, few had ever had a discussion about an N95 mask; now many communities are wondering how many of them are needed, and whether or not the city next door might need them more.
It is awe-inspiring and comforting in an odd way that there are 20,000 cities in the United States faced with the same decisions. Cities have always been a family; they take care of each other precisely because, at a fundamental level, they are deeply connected. With everyone affected, everyone is working together and exchanging information more and better than ever.
Ethics as a tie that binds
Leaning on ethics during emergency situations should be a first instinct, but on reflection, may not be exactly second nature. City managers, assistant city managers, police chiefs, fire chiefs, public works directors, and mayors each serve in varied roles after a disaster declaration. The emergency management organizational structure is different. Procurement rules are different. The focus is on quick and decisive responses to dangerous conditions. Those differences are important and are to be understood and respected.
In such a time, it may be tempting to let the ends justify the means, and store ethics carefully away for a less troubled time. However, in the words of President Williams, TCMA ethics guidelines should “steer” public administrators always, in good times as they should in a once-in-a-generation pandemic.
Consider these examples:
Tenet 2: “Affirm the dignity and worth of local government services”
Managers should remind their team, that during stressful and unpredictable times, the city council and residents are looking for order in the midst of chaos. The provision of public safety services, clean drinking water, solid waste services, and others provide that order.
Tenet 3: “merit the trust and respect of the elected and appointed officials, employees, and the public”
Decision-making processes may change during emergencies, but managers remain ethically guided professionals. A mayor will be fielding different kinds of emails and phone calls from state and county emergency management and elected officials, and may turn to their staff for guidance. Professional integrity, a calm and steady demeanor, and grounded experience are the most important tools during troubled times.
Tenet 5: “provide them (elected officials) with facts and advice on matters of policy”
During normal times, cities probably wouldn’t close their libraries without a formal discussion and policy decision of a city council. Yet, over the past few weeks, many cities did exactly that. City staff should never take for granted that the elected officials completely understand or agree with these decisions. Every opportunity should be afforded them to understand and weigh in on what’s going on in their community.
Tenet 8: “Make it a duty continually to improve the member’s professional ability”
This tenet includes employees’ NIMS training.
Tenet 9: “Keep the community informed”
This is especially true during emergencies. The pandemic has spawned a good deal of creativity in how cities deliver their messages, and new ideas for more normal times are likely the result.
Tenet 12: “Public office is a public trust”
The past few weeks, inboxes across Texas have been jammed with solicitations and offers to sell personal protection equipment and video conferencing software. Procurement rules during emergencies are justifiably relaxed, and staffs are routinely performing functions outside of their normal duties. The pressure to fix problems can be overwhelming at times, and it can be tempting during such times to spend whatever is needed without context or strategic thought. The middle of a structure fire is not the best time to audit water usage. But taking the time to ensure purchases are truly needed, and the price is reasonable need to continue to be the priorities. Such an approach not only allows for problem solving, but it also reinforces the public’s confidence in the prudence of their local leadership.
Humbled by the experience
If city staffs weren’t already humbled by their roles as public servants, then this global pandemic should do the trick. Appropriate humility is largely what the TCMA ethical code is all about. The role of public administrators is not about the egos and agendas of city staff – it is about serving others, especially when most needed, and even more so in times of disaster. Local officials are of a special calling and should be proud to be a part of such a noble profession.
(Article submitted by Paul Hofmann, City Manager, Bellaire)
2020 tcma annual conference cancelled
Due to growing concerns about the coronavirus, the TCMA Board has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 TCMA Annual Conference on June 4-7, 2020, in South Padre Island. This decision was made in light of increased city travel restrictions, state and federal expert advice encouraging social distancing, and respect for our members needing to be home to manage their cities during and after the crisis.
Hotel and Travel: Be sure to cancel any hotel, flight, and/or car rental reservations you made for this event. TCMA is not responsible for any cancellation or change fees associated with those reservations.
If you made hotel reservations through the housing portal, you must make your cancellation through the portal and will receive a cancellation notice. The login and password information is located at the bottom of the TCMA Hotel Portal page at TCMA Conference Hotels.
TCMA Educational Events
#ELGL Inspire: TCMA-ELGL Joint Event
We will be back for the fall semester. Stay tuned for more information.
Tex-ICMA Coaching Webinars
(Pre-registration is required)
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 p.m.-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 met on April 3 via video conference. Meeting minutes are available here.
The Membership Committee met on April 17 via video conference. Meeting minutes are available here.
The Public Policy Task Force will meet via video conference on May 21.