A Homegrown City Manager?

Two weeks ago City Council rejected Mayor Oscar Leeser’s proposal to restrict the search for a City Manager to locals.

From Adam Powell’s piece on ElPasoTimes.com:

The El Paso City Council once again backed off from advancing its search for a new city manager, leaving the city back at square one for the third time since last year.

Mayor Oscar Leeser proposed a plan to recruit city manager candidates from El Paso County before advancing a nationwide search, which would likely be overseen by an executive search firm at roughly $50,000 to the city. However, council members blasted the plan, and Leeser ultimately removed it from consideration.

Apparently, half of City Council didn’t see anything wrong with our last two carpetbagging City Managers.

Half of City Council likes a City Manager that would sell out the taxpayers to benefit the country club set.

“I think the perception of what’s being proposed … can be very bad,” [District 8 Representative Chris] Canales said, asserting that the proposed two-week time frame for the job posting was an “unreasonably short amount of time” and the El Paso-centric candidate pool was “very bad practice.”

He likewise called it “disrespectful” to Baker Tilly US, the Chicago-based advisory, tax and assurance firm previously under consideration to head up the city manager search, for the city to advance a locals-only process. The City Council rejected a proposal to hire Baker Tilly last August and again during its Jan. 30 meeting.

Disrespectful to Baker Tilly US?

I think Mr. Canales needs a little time in the private sector. He needs to fire an employee, preferably the week before Christmas.

Baker Tilly serves at the will and whim of City Council. If they get their feelings hurt, they’re in the wrong business.

And I think that El Pasoans should have every reason to be suspicious of a Chicago-based firm.

The Paso del Norte Group, that secretive cabal that foisted the Downtown Plan on El Paso taxpayers, sprang from the loins of Chicago real estate dealings. A search firm can queer the deal right out of the box. They can stack the deck and mark the cards.

Chicago is practically synonymous with corruption. And El Paso has already been tainted by Chicago-style back room dealings.

Part of the reason El Paso has such a low crime rate, and part of the reason that El Pasoans are so nice, is because we all live here. El Paso doesn’t have much of a transient population. If I screw you over in a business deal, I’m likely to see you next week at the grocery store or the swap meet or a dive bar. Our insularity is our guarantee that we’ll all be cool to each other.

If we hire a new City Manager from out of town, they’re not invested in the community. They can make new friends with the country club set, the people who benefit from municipal largess, and tell the taxpayers to go to hell. They’ll get the story that El Pasoans approved the Quality of Life bonds by something like 70%, but they won’t get the back story about how a previous City Manager and the bond proponents, including members of City Council, lied to us when they were pitching the arena and the Quality of Life bonds.

They won’t harbor the legitimate resentment the taxpayers hold against the vampire class.

I’m not saying that City Council can’t hire a good city manager from out of town, but, judging from past experience, City Council hasn’t hired a good city manager from out of town yet.


  1. Rich – I usually agree with you but I want to play devil’s advocate. Many leaders of the current rats’ nest we call City Hall are home grown. Staff and elected officials. In fact, I’d say it’s the rare person who could have moved up in the Gonzalez regime who wasn’t a part of the rats’ nest. So why not pick someone who doesn’t have that baggage?

    1. Because they’re still going into that rat’s nest, and they’ll probably pick up he baggage as soon as they get the chance. Joyce and Tommy came in pretty clean, but by the time they left they were tainted.

      I think we should clean out some of the career bureaucrats who are part of the problem. A new City Manager might not be able to tell the good from the bad.

  2. Joel, I don’t think the rats you refer to exist because they are El Pasoans, but because we have too long allowed our local decisions to be made by rats from outside. Why does a local search have to be restricted to current City Employees? Why not some local leader from another area?

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