Courtney Sharp City Management Clinic and Scholarship
New Member Applications
An Interview with Opal Mauldin-Jones: I Bet You Didn’t Know!
Meet Your Colleagues
Annual Mental Wellness Check Up
There and Back Again, an ACM’s Journey
The TML Risk Pool and the 1989 Texas Workers’ Compensation Act
Printable Code of Ethics Now Available
Awards and Scholarships
TCMA Educational Events
Memos on Meetings
Courtney Sharp City management clinic and scholarship
Join us in Granbury for this Annual Event!
The Texas City Management Association (TCMA)
Courtney Sharp City Management Clinic
- What the….? Is Chat GPT and AI for Real? And What Does It Mean for My City?
- Leading Change with Change Intelligence: Strategies for Inspiring Hearts, Engaging Heads, and Moving Hands
- Lessons Learned from Alternative Work Schedules
- What Next? (How to leave the city manager’s seat and the top five things you should have in your contract)
- The Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS) Report
Read all about the Clinic and register today at City Management Clinic.
To apply for the Scholarship, click here.
Mike Arismendez is the new city manager of the City of Kermit.
Douglas Finch is the new city manager of the City of Duncanville, effective January 8, 2024.
Azalia Garcia is the new city manager of the City of Carrizo Springs.
Lacie Hale is no longer the city manager of the City of Volente.
Troy Hill is the new city administrator of the City of Glen Rose.
Stephanie Lee Jester is the new city administrator of the City of Bangs.
Daniel S. Johnson is the new city manager of the City of Manvel.
Kandace Lesley is no longer the city manager of the City of Lake Dallas.
Glen Martel is no longer the city manager of the City of Live Oak. Anas Garfaoui is serving as the interim city manager.
Lance Petty is serving as the interim city manager of the City of Freeport.
Denys Pratt is serving as acting city manager of the City of Balch Springs.
Robert Ranc is the new city manager of the City of Celina, effective January 8, 2024.
Lola Smith is no longer the city administrator of the City of Dalworthington Gardens. Greg Petty is serving as the interim city administrator.
Nate Smith is the new city administrator of the City of Winters.
Elias (Eli) Torres is the new city manager of the City of Snyder.
Venus Wehle is the new city manager of the City of Forest Hill.
The TCMA Management Messenger welcomes the following new members approved by the Executive Committee on November 28, 2023.
Full: Kristin Gauthier, Assistant City Manager, Navasota; Frank Rios Jr., Interim City Manager, La Feria
Associate: Rebecca Barton, Assistant to the City Manager/Compliance Manager, Frisco; Polycarp Birika, Assistant to the City Manager/Plans Examiner Supervisor, Frisco; Jared DeVries, Management Analyst, Benbrook; Matthew DuBois, Assistant to the City Manager/Development Manager, Frisco
Student: Bryan Briones, Texas Tech University; Leah Casey, University of Texas, Austin; Stephen Cottingham, University of North Texas
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 November:
Associate: Caleb Casteel, Assistant to the City Manager; Susan Greenwood, Court Administrator/Assistant City Secretary, New Fairview; Stephanie Nichols, Assistant to the City Manager, Whitehouse
Cooperating: Nigel Paxton, Aries Advisors
an interview with opal mauldin-jones: I bet you didn't know!
TML Risk Pool staff periodically interview members of the Pool’s Board of Trustees. For the latest installment of “Meet a Trustee,” we interviewed City of Lancaster City Manager and TCMA President Opal Mauldin-Jones, who holds Place 9 on the Pool’s Board of Trustees. The following article summarizes our recent conversation.
Quiet confidence, a steadfast resolve to excel, and recognition of her mentors and family. That’s Opal Mauldin-Jones. Her rise to city manager and Texas City Management Association President is borne from those things and more.
Opal grew up just outside of Tyler in Overton, Texas, on a 500-acre farm where her family still resides, and her grandfather served as a Baptist minister. She originally planned to be an accountant, but then she received an assignment in her first-semester political science class at the University of Texas at Arlington – write a paper about a politician. (Read more)
(Article submitted by Scott Houston, Intergovernmental Relations Manager, TML Risk Pool)
Meet Your Colleagues
The TCMA Management Messenger welcomes James Fisher to his new position as the city manager of the City of Levelland. James’ appointment began in October 2023. He has served several cities in Texas throughout his 33 years in local government and is an active member of TCMA, ICMA, and several other organizations.
James received his master of public affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas and his bachelor’s in business administration from West Texas State University.
James and his wife, Christi Beth, have been married 33 years. Together they have two amazing children, a super son-in-law, a fantastic daughter-in-law, and more importantly, two out of this world grandchildren with another coming this summer (2024). James enjoys activities outdoors, spending time with his family, and watching baseball (go Red Sox!).
The TCMA Management Messenger welcomes Ryan Henderson to his new position as the city manager of the City of Anna. Ryan’s appointment began in October 2023, after serving as the interim city manager. Prior to his role as the city manager, Ryan served the City of Anna as an assistant city manager beginning in 2019. Before joining the City of Anna, Ryan served in the city manager’s office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from 2013-2019.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech and his master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013.
Ryan and his wife, Ana, have been married for five years and have two dogs, Franklin and Eleanor. He’s passionate about travel, literature, and good coffee.
TCMA is saddened to announce the passing of L.A. George Patterson on November 5. He was dedicated to the city management profession for more than 50 years serving as the city manager of the cities of Pecos and Snyder, with 30 years as the city manager of the City of Highland Village from 1978 to 2008. George served as a TCMA president and was a life member.
Funeral services were held on Friday, November 10. In lieu of flowers, donations for the food pantry or missions can be made to the United Methodist Church of Troup, 202 E Duval Street, Troup, Texas 75789.
Please keep his wife Carole and the family in your thoughts and prayers. For a complete obituary, please click George Patterson.
TCMA is saddened by the passing of Jacob Criswell, son of Wolfforth City Manager Randy Criswell. Jacob passed on November 10 after a brief battle with cancer. Randy stated that, “A better soul was never born.” Please keep Randy and his family in your thoughts and prayers. For a full obituary and to plant a tree in Jacob’s honor, please click Jacob Criswell.
TCMA is saddened by the passing of Wendy Parker, wife of Seguin City Manager Steve Parker. Wendy passed on November 14. A Celebration of Life Service will be held on January 7, 2024, from 2:00-5:00 p.m. at the Seguin Events Complex, located at 950 South Austin Street in Seguin. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Susan G. Komen Foundation at www.komen.org. For a complete obituary, please click Wendy Parker.
ANNUAL MENTAL WELLNESS CHECK UP
Have You Had Your Annual Mental Wellness Check Up?
Just like caring for our physical health, mental wellness is also critical to overall health. The challenges of our profession can be draining, weigh heavy, and take a toll. As 2023 draws to an end and we enter the holiday season, TCMA encourages you to take advantage of the programs offered through Deer Oaks.
As part of your benefit, Deer Oaks covers three confidential, pre-paid, short-term counseling visits to members and their families. These visits can be conducted in-person or virtually. Deer Oaks clinicians have considerable expertise and knowledge in the areas of stress, depression, anxiety, workplace difficulties, substance abuse, marital problems, family or parenting conflicts, grief, domestic violence, and unhealthy lifestyles.
To access your benefits, contact Deer Oaks at 888-993-7650 or visit the Deer Oaks website and log into the TCMA portal at www.deeroakseap.com. The login and password are TCMA. You can also access services through the iConnectYou app in the Apple Store and Android Play Store with the code “231963.”
there and back again, an acm's journey
On New Year’s Day 2023, my husband and I sat down and watched all three extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies. That’s somewhere around 12 hours of movies. We sat there and did nothing but watch the fellowship defend Middle Earth from Sauron and toss the Ring of Power into the fires of Mount Doom. Unlike the plot of the movies, we never ventured out, never left our house, and could count on one hand the number of times we even got off the couch.
It was also the first day in two weeks that I took a break from being an assistant city manager. Prior to that day, every minute of my life since December 20 was dedicated to navigating our team through a ransomware attack that had crippled most city operations. We had no access to our email, files, computers, or phone systems. We had no way to send utility bills or issue permits. No way to take payments. No payroll system.
Adrenaline, caffeine, and grit kept me running for the very long initial days. But as December ended, the road started to get more difficult. The city manager and I had kept our employees updated as best we could since the first day. However, as time went on and the questions grew, we had no answers and no quick fix. We decided to send staff home for the holiday weekend, with the plan of having more serious discussions about moving forward when everyone returned in a few days. We knew the gravity of the conversations that were coming, we knew the impossible tasks we were about to assign, and we knew it was the only option we had. To paraphrase one of the more famous LOTR quotes, one does not simply walk away from a ransomware attack.
I— as many in our profession do—can’t take my own advice, and worked through the weekend, pouring over my notes, plans of attack, resources, ideas, and more. I completely wore myself out, taking on the emotional and physical burden of what was happening. And because of that, it should come as no surprise that before I headed home for the weekend, I threw myself a little pity party. I sat in my office, staring at what seemed like an endless list of impossible tasks and insurmountable roadblocks, and let myself completely break down before heading home to Aragorn, Frodo….and my husband.
Sitting on the couch on January 1, 2023, in my Star Wars Christmas pajamas, some 10 hours into the Lord of the Rings, emotionally crushed and physically exhausted, I heard a message I needed to hear.
If you aren’t familiar with Lord of the Ring, this may not make sense. I’m hopeful, however, that I can capture the essence of what happens. Near the end of The Return of the King, Frodo and Sam (good guys) are desperate to reach Mount Doom (special volcano) and destroy the Ring of Power, but 10,000 orcs (bad guy’s army) stand in their way. Seeing no other chance for success, Aragorn (king good guy) suggests a distraction. They decide to attack Mordor (bad guy’s house) directly to lure Sauron (big bad guy) and the orcs away, giving Frodo and Sam a chance to succeed. At this suggestion, the character Gimli (funny good guy) sharply replies, “Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?” At that moment, it felt like he was speaking directly to me. (...and in this moment, I feel like a big nerd, but maybe that’s a discussion for another day).
Gimli wasn’t being flippant in his response. He fully understood what was being asked of him and the sacrifice he was going to make. He also understood his own power and believed in his team. He had faith that if he fulfilled his role, others would be empowered and would be able to do theirs. And he believed that no matter how hard the task was, it was necessary. At that moment, I was staring into my own battle, my own fight, my own “small chance of success” crisis, and I had no choice but to forge ahead.
With the One Ring destroyed and the movie marathon finished, the pity party was officially over and it was time to get to work.
The first few days, weeks, and months of 2023 were anything but easy. It took endless late nights, weekends, feelings of doubt followed by a resurgence of energy, careful planning, and lots of tough decisions to get everything back in order. But like many traumatic events, it hasn’t really ended. Even today, one year removed from the attack, there isn’t a week where a remnant of the attack doesn’t make itself known in one way or another.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve started sharing our story. We’ve talked to other city managers about what we went through in context of the roles we play as city managers, community leaders, and as humans. We’ve started sharing the more specific and not-so-glamourous details of how we managed to recover and the toll it took on our organization. We were fortunate to present at the TCMA Region 6 meeting in November and while I can’t duplicate that presentation on this medium, there are a few key experiences and pieces of advice I wanted to share.
1. A ransomware attack can happen to any city at any time.
The City of Tomball, population 12,000, was hit by the same threat actor that hit the City of Dallas, population 1.3 million. It’s not a matter of the size or sophistication of the organization, the number of IT professionals or their skills, or the size of your IT budget. Every level of government and every city is vulnerable. And know that even if you have a robust cybersecurity budget, it is probably pennies compared to what is being invested by bad actors.
2. City managers should take a more active role in cybersecurity practices and decision making.
There are many reasons we rely on subject matter experts. As city managers, it’s impossible to be an expert in everything. On top of that, very few of us came up through the ranks of IT departments, making it even more of a stretch for us. But it’s worth it to invest time, resources, and energy in getting more education and training in cybersecurity and actively participating with your IT staff on cybersecurity planning. Know that even if you have a robust cybersecurity budget, it’s probably pennies compared to what is being invested by bad actors. So, while prevention is an important approach, don’t forget to invest in plans to remediate, restore, and rebuild your network.
3. You will never be fully prepared for a ransomware attack, but you can be more prepared.
A ransomware attack isn’t something you could ever be fully prepared for as a manager because if you ever experience one, you’ll see that every organization, every incident, every operation, and every employee will react differently. You may even think back to this article and think, “that’s not at all what it felt like to me.” However, I encourage everyone to have conversations and take steps today to prepare your organization. Talk to your IT department about having a third-party assessment of your network security and conduct regular penetration testing. Ensure your departments have continuity of operation plans that include managing through extended technology outages. Ask your directors if they know what their department’s technology needs are and, more importantly, if they know which employees can do their job manually and which ones can’t. Get cyber insurance, or if you have it, review your policy.
4. Know you are not alone.
Unfortunately, there is a growing list of city governments that have had to deal with ransomware attacks, including many of us here in Texas. It’s not a club that anyone may want to join, but in the event you ever find yourself in it, know there are many of us out here willing to help. We can provide advice and guidance, a shoulder to cry on, insight into our decisions, or talk with you about whatever you need to talk through.
And if all else fails, I’ll at least let you borrow my Lord of the Rings DVDs.
(Article submitted by Jessica Rogers, Assistant City Manager, Tomball)
The TML Risk Pool and the 1989 Texas Workers’ Compensation Act
This article is one of several to come, written by each of the seven current city managers who serve on the 18-Member TML Risk Pool Board of Trustees.
The Texas Legislature enacted the first workers' compensation laws in 1913. In 1917, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the authority of states to require employers to choose whether to participate in their workers' compensation systems. Today, Texas is the only state that allows private employers to choose whether to provide workers' compensation (cities are required to participate). A Texas law passed that same year created the Texas Industrial Accident Board to administer workers' compensation laws and provided the basic framework for Texas’ workers' compensation system until the late 1980s.
In 1973, the Texas Legislature mandated that Texas cities provide workers' compensation coverage to their employees. At that time, most traditional insurance companies refused to write the coverage or quoted exorbitant rates. For those reasons, the legislation also authorized the creation of the first government risk pool in the United States, which was the predecessor of the TML Intergovernmental Risk Pool as we know it today.
In 1987, in the face of complaints about rising costs and low benefits, the Texas Legislature appointed a committee to study the workers’ compensation system and make recommendations for change. According to a 2001 article in the Texas Insurance Journal, the committee’s findings “were appalling.”
It concluded that: (1) work-related fatalities and injuries in Texas were more frequent compared to other states; (2) benefit rates and payment durations were low compared to other states, especially for seriously injured workers; and (3) medical costs were on the rise. Even more important, the committee found that certain attorneys were “gaming” the system to make a fortune in fees – even on undisputed claims. Those attorneys took the most minor injuries to court to increase the settlement value of the claims. The process also meant that private employers began to leave the system, which caused further damage.
The Pool was financially affected by the systemic failures and was instrumental in calling for reform. Tony Korioth, the Pool’s general counsel at the time, had served as a state representative and on the Texas Industrial Accident Board. He was a well-known workers' compensation lawyer and respected by legislators, and he was deeply involved in negotiations to fix the broken system.
Based on the committee’s findings and input from the Pool and other stakeholders, the Texas Legislature enacted the Texas Worker's Compensation Act (Senate Bill 1) in 1989. The Act created the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission (TWCC) to administer the workers' compensation system (replacing the Texas Industrial Accident Board) and ensure that injured workers are fairly compensated.
The 1989 Workers' Compensation Act, among many other things: (1) raised basic benefit levels and set tight deadlines for employers and carriers to improve benefit delivery; (2) created an administrative dispute resolution to informally resolve claim disputes when possible; and (3) provided for an administrative three-judge appeal panel to decide the remaining disputes. Again, most importantly, the Act provided that workers’ compensation claims could no longer be settled. That change eliminated most lawyers from the system because they could no longer make money on small claims.
According to the Insurance Journal article, before the Act’s passage “90 percent of injured workers were represented by an attorney during prehearing conferences and approximately 40-45 percent of all claims had attorney representation. Today, fewer than 10 percent of all workers’ comp claimants are represented by an attorney.”
The reform also meant that, even though the Act increased worker benefits, the Pool was able to recover financially and provide workers with the benefits they deserved. According to figures provided by the Texas Department of Insurance, the reforms reduced total claim costs in Texas by more than 50 percent between 1990 and 1994.
Rising medical costs and other factors led additional reforms to follow during the 1990s and 2000s – more on those and the Pool’s response will appear in a future article.
(Article submitted by Kimberly Meismer, Assistant City Manager, Kerrville; and Trustee, Place 6, TML Risk Pool Board of Trustees)
Gifts, Transparency, and Public Trust
Everyone will likely agree accepting gifts, invitations, services or favors at some point becomes a clear ethical violation of Tenet 12 and guidelines of the TCMA Code of Ethics. It can even lead to illegal acts. So, how do you determine where those boundaries of permissibility blur and what guidance should you seek out?
Reading the TCMA Code is obviously a good first step but doesn’t give some absolute boundaries many may seek. Tenet 12 reads, “Public office is a public trust. A member shall not leverage his or her position for personal gain or benefit.” The Tenet 12 guidelines regarding gifts provide additional clarification that begin with a warning against “any gift that could reasonably be perceived or inferred that the gift was intended to influence…” Further, the guideline states gifts should not be “intended as a reward for any official action.” Perhaps most notable is a later section in the Tenet 12 guideline stating, “De minimus gifts may be accepted in circumstances that support the execution of the member’s duties or serve a legitimate public purpose.” This language places a significant condition on accepting gifts even of small value.
Is it legal? Many may look to the Texas Penal Code or City policy for when a gift or favor may become “personal gain.” To avoid potential criminal acts, the boundaries of the Penal Code are fairly clear at less than $50. Many cities have a written policy for accepting gifts below a certain monetary threshold. Some cities require notification or permission of superiors, especially with non-monetary invitations or event access.
Why a gift? Another boundary to consider is in determining the intent of the giver. If the gift is intended solely to gain favor, influence, or a returned benefit, is it even a “gift?” Bad intent on the part of the giver may, by definition, make the ‘gift’ nothing more than an intended “bribe.”
What potential harm could arise simply from the appearance of impropriety? What perceptions may be created in awareness of the gift, access, service, or favor? A simple accusation or implication of undue influence on a public decision based on a gift can easily generate a cloud of distrust and compromise for the individual and organization. Credibility and trust are easily attacked and very difficult to rebuild, especially in these days of social media.
While many understand the premise of gift giving to be a genuine gesture of goodwill, appreciation, or gratitude, as a member of TCMA you have an additional responsibility because of your position and the duty of trust to adhere to TCMA’s Code of Ethics. A conclusive answer on accepting any gift may be elusive in many situations when attempting to make your determination from guidance of ethical canons, legal code, policy, intent, or appearances. When you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable with an offer, invitation, or gift, contact
a trusted colleague, mentor, or senior advisor. Declining a gift can create a difficult situation that may challenge even a savvy, experienced manager. You will be surprised how often most in the profession have dealt with these uncomfortable issues, their willingness to offer counsel, and the creative ways many have responded.
“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” Justice Potter Stewart
(Article submitted by Chad Nehring, City Manager, Center)
Printable Code of Ethics Now Available
TCMA recently updated the Code of Ethics to align with ICMA updates. A print friendly and frameable copy of the TCMA Code of Ethics can be found here.
awards and scholarships
Each year, TCMA provides opportunities to recognize colleagues for their outstanding service to the city management profession, honor an outstanding city council for significant contributions to local government in Texas, and recognize an academician who has made significant contributions to the formal education of students pursuing careers in local government. The deadline for submissions is January 5, 2024.
- Administrator of the Year
- Assistant of the Year Award in Memory of Valerie Bradley
- Associate Member of the Year (New)
- City Council of the Year
- Excellence in Ethics and Integrity
- Lifetime Achievement
- Mentoring in Memory of Gary Gwyn
- Terrell Blodgett Academician
For information and applications, click here.
TCMA also provides opportunities for professional development through scholarships. Unless otherwise noted, the deadline for submissions is January 5, 2024.
- Barney L. Knight Texas CPM Scholarship
- Clarence E. Ridley Scholarship
- Leadership Development Scholarship
- Tom Muehlenbeck Scholarship (Deadline April 5, 2024)
Julie Robinson Emerging Leader Professional Development Scholarship
This $5,000 scholarship was created in memory of Julie Robinson for her enduring mentorships and passion for professional development.
For information about all scholarships, click here.
If you have questions about any of these programs, please contact Kirsten Davis at email@example.com or 512-231-7400.
tcma educational EVENTS
William “King” Cole Session 1
January 25-26, 2024
Courtney Sharp City Management Clinic
February 22-23, 2024
William “King” Cole Session 2
April 4-5, 2024
Perspectives on City Management
Listen to episodes here.
Memos on Meetings
The Membership Committee met on November 3. Meeting minutes are available here. The next meeting is scheduled t via video conference on January 12.
The Ethics Committee met on November 9. Meeting minutes are available here. The next meeting is scheduled via video conference on January 11.
The Allies Committee met on November 15. Meeting minutes are available here. The next meeting is scheduled via video conference on December 1.
The 100 Year Celebration Task Force is scheduled via video conference on January 10.
The Board is scheduled to meet on January 19 in Austin.