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4 candidates for El Paso city manager job faced City Council, employee panel, and citizens committee Thursday

By Maria Garcia
Published On: May 08 2014 07:37:31 PM CDT
Updated On: May 09 2014 11:42:39 AM CDT

4 city manager finalists interviewed Thursday

EL PASO, Texas -

The four candidates vying for the City of El Paso's top job answered a lot of questions Thursday as the City Council, an employee panel and a citizens committee interviewed them.

Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee did not want to comment on the candidates or which one stood out to them because it was too early in the process, they said. "It would be unfair to comment on the candidates but we are honored to be part of the process," said Joe Wardy, former mayor of El Paso and part of the citizens committee.

Lisa Turner, a government watchdog, who rarely misses a City Council meeting, also said she did not feel comfortable saying who stood out to her.

The interviews were closed to the public and media.

After the interviews, City Rep. Michiel Noe said he is leaning toward one candidate the most. "I want someone with some experience managing a large city, city with a large budget, I want someone with some experience with our culture and some experience with border communities and someone with some experience with military is a bonus as well. So to me, there was someone who stood out. Mr. Gonzalez stood out very well. He has the qualities, the leadership abilities, that I was looking for."

Noe is referring to Tommy Gonzalez, the former City Manager of Irving, Texas. When asked about allegations against Gonzalez for abuse of power while he was in Irving, Noe said those accusations had been properly vetted and demonstrated Gonzalez had done nothing unethical.

Noe said his second choice was probably current Fort Worth Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa.  He said Costa's experience in city planning, managing growth and revitalizing a downtown are a big plus. But Noe added the next city manager will face some really harsh critics and that Costa may be "almost too nice."

The City Rep. also had positive comments for local candidates Carmen Arrieta Candelaria, the City's Chief Financial Officer and Deputy City Manager David Almonte, saying they both do "really good work" for the City.

Asked if working with and knowing Arrieta Candelaria and Almonte influenced the interviews, he responded:  "It's a little bit more laid back because you do know them and you're kind of friends with them and you want to wish the best for them as well. Your hoping that they give you these answers that just blow you away and say you're the one but ultimately you pick one person and you pick it based on what it'll do for the city and not for any individual."

ABC-7 was unable to poll all of the City Representatives so Noe's choice may or may not reflect what the rest of Council wants.

The Council may make a decision as early as next week.

Current City Manager Joyce Wilson's contract expires in September.

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