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El Paso City Manager Joyce Wilson a finalist for Fort Worth city manager job

By Leonard Martinez
Published On: Feb 14 2014 07:36:08 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 17 2014 02:15:45 PM CST

City of El Paso

El Paso City Manager Joyce Wilson

EL PASO, Texas -

Fort Worth has narrowed its search for a new city manager to four and El Paso City Manager Joyce Wilson has made the cut.

The finalists will be brought in for another round of in-person interviews with the Fort Worth City Council Feb. 25.

A Fort Worth spokesman told ABC-7 that Fort Worth City Council hopes to hire a city manager by April but a start date is not known at this time.

The search for a new Fort Worth city manager began Oct. 16, 2013, when current City Manager Tom Higgins announced his retirement following his three-year tenure in the city’s top job.

Higgins, who earns at least $233,393, will serve in his current role until a replacement is appointed.

"Though the city manager is appointed by City Council, the City Manager's Office is made up of non-political employees much like any other office," as stated on the Fort Worth City Manager web page. "The employees in the City Manager's Office oversee city operations and processes while acting as a clearinghouse for information both requested by and submitted to City Council. The City Manager's Office exists to keep the city running, regardless of who wins an election."

Wilson submitted her resignation to the City of El Paso in early Oct. 2013. Her contract ends Sept. 30, 2014.

"Who knows what's out there for me? I've got all these people calling me," Wilson said at a news conference in early October when talking about submitting her resignation.

Wilson added that the institution is more important than one person.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, in a Jan. 31, 2014 post on the City of Fort Worth's website, said "In a nutshell, we are looking for Superman or Superwoman" when talking about the next city manager.

A little about what we’re looking for in the next city manager:

  • Proven leader
  • Dynamic change agent
  • Ability to break down silos
  • An innovator who is tech savvy
  • Business eye for maximizing productivity and customer service
  • Able to be transformational while also taking care of the daily transactional tasks
  • Someone who is comfortable balancing a tight budget with the great demand for essential city services

"Fort Worth’s new city manager must be able to build a lean and responsive organization while meeting the needs of our growing population. He or she must keep our focus on redeveloping our city’s urban core while responsibly managing growth in outlying areas," Price wrote. "The next city manager must be ready to deal with the North Texas challenges of mobility and water. And our next city manager must be able to improve customer service, expand the city’s use of technology and strengthen transparency and public engagement."

How Wilson views her El Paso tenure

"We've done extraordinary things," she said.

One of the accomplishments she talked about during her tenure was saving the transit system "for people who really needed it. El Paso has great potential."

"It has been my honor and pleasure to serve the City of El Paso for the last nine years,” Wilson said in October. “It has been without a doubt the most challenging yet rewarding professional opportunity of my public career.   I am particularly grateful for your public support and desire for me to stay on thru your transition into office when I was considering leaving El Paso this past summer.   However, as I enter the last year of my contract term I feel it appropriate to tender my resignation effective as of September 30, 2014, which date represents the end of my contract with the City. I am providing the City with this advance notice in order to allow the City sufficient time to conduct the appropriate recruitment for a new City Manager.   I look forward to working with Mayor (Oscar) Leeser and City Council in that process and visiting about this issue."

For Wilson, "it is important that I leave the City government in a good place for my successor. Things are very stable now and it is a good time to begin the succession process.  I have a lot of sweat equity invested here and I want to make sure that we continue to demonstrate the value of professional management for the City government. I am proud of the professional team in place and the depth of the professional bench strength. There is a large pool of future leaders for El Paso and I hope they will continue to be recognized. I also want to acknowledge and thank previous mayors and city councils for their leadership and support which allowed us to make some of the most significant changes and progress in the City's recent history."

Wilson has flirted with leaving before

In May 2013, Wilson was chosen for a comparable position in Lee County, Florida, but then elect-mayor Oscar Leeser convinced her to stay and help with his transition.

WZVN-TV, the ABC affiliate in Fort Myers, reported in June that it came down to Wilson not getting enough money in the negotiations.

Wilson asked for $225,000 a year plus $25,000 deferred compensation. The two sides could not agree on salary and a severance package. Lee County board chairman Cecil Pendergrass told the ABC affiliate there would be no golden parachutes and he only wanted to give Wilson $185,000.

Pendergrass also said Wilson wanted $650 a month for a car and three months housing while he countered with $500 a month for a car and no housing.

Wilson reportedly told Lee County commissioners she was not interested in the job three times before she was chosen as the No. 1 choice. Leeser then convinced her to stay on with the City of El Paso.

Wilson was hired as El Paso's first city manager in 2004 after a charter amendment vote to create a city manager position to run the city along with City Council.

Wilson has been selected as the state’s Top Public Works Leader for 2013 by the Texas Chapter of the American Public Works Association (TPWA). The recognition honors individuals for excellence in their career-long achievements, expertise, service and dedication to improving the quality of life in the communities they serve.

Wilson's resume states she is a "Nationally recognized leader with over 25 years of extensive local government management experience at senior management and executive levels. Experience working in demographically diverse areas and bi-national settings. Specific areas of expertise include exemplary fiscal management and high-performance, customer-focused service delivery, community capacity building, internal and external communications, economic development and community revitalization. Demonstrated oversight of significant infrastructure investments in rapid growth communities, as well as those experiencing substantial economic decline."

Then-Mayor John Cook declined in April 2013 to give Wilson another evaluation under that City Council before the May elections. Wilson's last evaluation was released in mid-December and made mention of items that she needed to work on.

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