TCMA Annual Conference
New Member Applications
Meet Your Colleagues
National Women’s History
Call for Committee Volunteers
Membership Survey Results
Customer Service After COVID
Around the State
TCMA Educational Events
Memos on Meetings
2023 TCMA Elections
The TCMA Board would like to thank the membership for participating in the statewide election. The office of president-elect and TML board representative were uncontested. Henderson City Manager Jay Abercrombie will serve as the president-elect and Schertz City Manager Steve Williams will serve as as the TML board representative. Deer Park Assistant City Manager Sara Robinson was elected and will serve as the director-at-large.
TML Board Representative
Immediate Past President
Director at Large
Also serving on the 2023-2024 Board
Region 1 Director
Region 2 Director
Region 3 Director
Region 4 Director
Region 5 Director
Region 6 Director
Region 7 Director
Region 8 Director
Region 9 Director
Region 10 Director
Management Analyst, Cedar Park
TCMA ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Registration and housing are now open for the 2023 TCMA Annual Conference.
Apply for a TCMA Annual Conference Scholarship.
Scholarship application deadline is 5:00 p.m. on April 14.
Scholarship information is available at Annual Conference Scholarship.
Mobile App for all your conference information
Follow conference updates, activities, and interact on Twitter using the official hashtag #2023TCMAconference.
Wade Carroll is the new town manager of the Town of Westlake.
Tammy Cockrum is the new city administrator of the City of Rogers.
Aretha Ferrell-Benavides is no longer the city manager of the City of Duncanville. Robert Brown, Jr. is serving as the interim city manager.
Vicki Fisher is the new city administrator of the City of Rice.
Mike Holder is the new city manager of the City of Kaufman.
Dean Huard is the new city manager of the Village of The Hills.
William Linn is no longer the city manager of the City of Kenedy.
David McDowell is no longer the city administrator of the City of Clifton.
Becky Miska is the new city administrator of the City of Goliad.
Brent Sheets is the new city manager of the City of Fritch.
Nate Smith is no longer the city administrator of the City of Fairfield.
Peggy Smith is the new city manager of the City of Granite Shoals.
Cary Westin is the interim city manager of the City of El Paso.
Benjamin Williamson is the new city manager of the City of Farmers Branch.
The TCMA Management Messenger welcomes the following new members approved by the Executive Committee on March 27, 2023.
Full: Joe Neeb, City Manager, Laredo; Melissa Popham, City Administrator, Poteet; Kevin Rule, City Manager, Woodcreek
Associate: Desiree Adair, City Secretary, Rollingwood; Rebecca Patterson Diviney, City Engineer/General Manager of Public Works, Denton; Edward Pitts, Public Works Director, Post; Sarah Munoz, Director of Development Services, Portland; Victoria Solis, Human Resources Director, Pleasanton; Dawn Steph, Director of Environmental and Neighborhood Services, Sugar Land
Cooperating: Adam Anders, Business Development Manager, Port Neches; Matthew Wright, Police Lieutenant, Austin
Student: Naisargi Jaiswal, 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 March:
Full: Jeffrey Brasher, City Administrator, Seymour; Matthew Dear, City Administrator, Lytle; Kevin Hodges, City Manager, Childress; Kimberly Judge, City Manager, Dayton; Traci Leach, Deputy City Manager, Coppell; Brent Sheets, City Manager, Fritch
Associate: J Matthew Feryan, Sr. Management & Budget Analyst, Grapevine; Spencer Foster, Assistant to the City Manager, Fate; Valencia Garcia, Assistant to the City Manager, Addison; Breanna Higgins, Assistant to the City Manager, Pflugerville; Santosha Pratt, Assistant to the City Manager, Balch Springs; Sasha Ricks, Finance & Human Resources Director, Blanco; Ken Schmidt, Director of Development Services, Addison; Caroline Waggoner, Director of Public Works, North Richland Hills
Cooperating: Isaac Bernal, Special Projects Manager, San Antonio; Lee Ann Gibson, Regional Client Service Manager, KSA; Cheryl Orr, Co-Managing Director, Institute for Excellence in Public Service; Omar Williams, Assistant to the Executive Director, Texas Coalition for Affordable Power
meet your colleagues
The TCMA Management Messenger welcomes Gerardo Barrera to his new position as the city administrator of the City of Bunker Hill Village. Gerardo’s appointment began on January 23. Prior to joining the City of Bunker Hill, Gerardo also served in various technical and management positions including utility technician, contract administrator, management analyst, general services superintendent, assistant public works director and public works director for the City of West University Place.
Gerardo received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Houston-Downtown and is expected to become a Certified Public Manager in June 2023.
national women's history
Sachse Assistant City Manager Lauren Rose was recognized for her service and leadership to her community. Lauren attributes her success to other women in the city management field who paved the way and mentored her. Read her story here.
call for committee volunteers
The following TCMA committees are conducting an open call for 15 at-large positions to serve for one year: Advocacy, Ethics, Membership, and Professional Development. The one-year term begins at the end of the 2023 TCMA Annual Conference (June 8-11) and concludes at the end of the 2024 TCMA Annual Conference. If you would like to serve on one of these committees, click 2023 Committee Volunteer. To review committee descriptions, click Committee Descriptions. To review the TCMA committee structure, click TCMA Committees.
membership survey results
TCMA membership survey results are now available. The data will provide helpful information as the Board begins the strategic planning process. The survey results are available at TCMA Membership Survey.
TCMA is saddened by the passing of Julie Robinson on March 12. Julie served as the city administrator of the City of Spring Valley Village and the city manager of the cities of Dickinson and Oak Point. Julie was active in TCMA, having served on the Board of Directors, various committees and task forces, and as Region 6 president. Julie was the 2018 recipient of the TCMA Mentoring Award in Memory of Gary Gwyn. TCMA captured her spirit for life in the TCMA podcast episode Managing When Life Happens.
A Celebration of Life was held on March 31. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in her honor to Bayou Animal Services.
Please keep her husband, Jim, and the family in your thoughts and prayers. A full obituary can be viewed at Julie Robinson.
Julie’s TCMA colleagues salute her for her friendship and service. Pictured from left to right: Paulette Hartman (North Richland Hills Deputy City Manager), Sereniah Breland (Pflugerville City Manager), Julie Robinson, Opal Mauldin-Jones (Lancaster City Manager), and Karen Daly (ICMA Mountain Plains Regional Director)
TCMA is saddened by the passing of Davis Brinson on March 17. Davis served as interim city manager for various cities and as the city manager of the City of Groves. He co-wrote The First 100 Things To Do As Manager which is included in the publication Analyzing Your City: An Orientation Plan for New City Managers (currently being updated).
A Celebration of Life was help on March 25. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the First Baptist Church, Benevolence Ministry, at 1229 Avenue J, Huntsville, Texas, 77340 or a charity of your choice.
Please keep his wife, Connie, and his family in your thoughts and prayers. A complete obituary can be found here.
customer service after covid
Customer service: no doubt this phrase is bandied about in your city hall as much as it is discussed within the walls of ours. After all, everything we do in city government is focused on our citizens and meeting their needs. Whether it takes the form of patching potholes, picking up trash, inspecting buildings, or keeping our community safe, citizens expect - as they should - that their services will be performed well and with a smile. But, in a post-COVID world, finding enough employees to fill the vacancies created by the “Great Resignation” is becoming increasingly difficult for some cities. And, the dedicated employees who remain are often wearing multiple hats, which can cause customer service to take a back seat in our cities. So, what can cities do to improve customer service to their communities?
One way is increasing your digital communication. Long gone are the days when visits to city hall are the most prominent form of communication with governmental entities. Possibly due to COVID, citizens are more concerned than ever before with accessing information from the comfort of their homes, and statistics show their choice for communicating with governments is becoming more digital. In 2021, the CFI Group surveyed more than 700 respondents and found that 88 percent of those surveyed now expect to interact with federal, state, and local governments digitally. Emails, texts, websites, and smartphone apps - we all use these daily to communicate our city’s messages. Governments are now looking to other digital resources to make lives easier for their citizens.
Chatbots have been all the rage on private industry websites for some time. And why wouldn’t they be? In a fast-paced world, who has time to sit on hold for 45 minutes listening to the fabulous vocal stylings of Barry Manilow when they can open a website and solve their problem by chatting with a customer service representative on their computer or phone for a few minutes, while they happily go about their day? Those same resources are now beginning to appear on government websites as well. Again, why wouldn’t we deploy that resource to engage our citizens? Using a chatbot solution with AI allows governments to answer more questions and provide more information, at any point during the day, effectively turning city hall into a 24/7 helpful operation without the extreme overhead costs associated with expanding the employee base and keeping the building open.
As our citizens get younger (and we get older) the digital world will only become more significant. Gen Zers, for instance, haven’t lived in a world without the internet. Most have never had a landline in their home since smartphones have been the norm for most of their lives. Gen Zers are looking for customer service experiences that are speedy and delivered on their timetable. Increasing your city’s digital communication footprint is an easy way to make that happen.
Who doesn’t have a social media account these days? In fact, the options in the social media realm are mind-boggling. From Facebook to Instagram, YouTube to Snapchat, and everything in between, social media, as they say, is here to stay. Most cities have taken advantage of some form of social media to communicate their message. But with new platforms seemingly popping up all the time, it may be a good time for your city to take stock of your social media strategy and explore if you are connecting with your target markets. Remember those Gen Zers? They effectively live on social media, but rarely in the same spaces as their parents and grandparents. The reliance on social media to “get the message out” is only going to grow as Gen Alpha and future generations expand their social media usage even further.
When it comes to social media, it’s easy to be allured by the idea of a viral post, but for government communicators it’s so much more important that we prioritize consistent quality. By maintaining a core brand message, leveraging humor, and posting recurring high-quality content, our city has tripled its following on Facebook without ever having a truly viral post. Instead, we engage our residents with meaningful information and entertaining content, and then meet them in the comments to address questions, solicit feedback, and solve problems.
There is an expectation for direct response and conversation on social media; so, we answer our resident’s questions and respond to their criticisms in messages, comments, and posts with professionalism and honesty.
The Personal Touch
Of course, we can’t talk about customer service without talking about the personal touch. While AI, social media, and other forms of digital communication go a long way toward making customers feel more informed, they don’t always make the customer feel as appreciated as they may feel following a personal connection. But, as we all make our way back from the era of lockdowns and working from home, we may need to put a special emphasis on beefing up our in-person customer service standards. After all, how can we expect our employees to deliver exceptional customer service if we don’t provide clear guidelines that line out exactly what that means to us?
At our city, we found that the pandemic caused us to silo within our departments. This siloing effect caused our departments to be out of touch with one another, which sometimes led to citizens getting contrasting answers to the same question from different departments. Between the confusion this invariably caused, and the increased workload related to being understaffed, complaints about our customer service were beginning to grow. So, we added a customer service message at the start of every employee newsletter. We are also sending all 900-plus employees through targeted customer service training. That way we can reset our customer service expectations, in every department all at once. Certainly, to do what our city is doing requires making it a budget priority and putting your money where your mouth is, but it doesn’t have to.
In his book Ignore Your Customers and They’ll Go Away, Micah Solomon lists five essential steps for establishing and maintaining a customer service culture. Following his roadmap and creating a customer service culture in your organization doesn’t have to cost a penny. Solomon’s five step plan is:
- Define your purpose in a sentence or two.
- Create a bill of rights, made up of fundamental cultural principles, to show what you want your customer service culture to look like.
- Communicate your purpose and bill of rights during recruitment, hiring and onboarding.
- Introduce a way to reinforce the purpose and bill of rights regularly to your staff, such as a customer service minute that is sent to your employees periodically.
- Become organizationally obsessed with talent management and select employees who are devoted to service.
Whether you use Solomon’s approach, increase your city’s social media presence, grow your digital communication offering, or invest in training, customer service in local government is essential. And after climbing out of a difficult three-year period, one that has certainly taken a toll on local governments, it’s important to your residents that employees get back to basics and provide customer service every day in every interaction to everyone.
(Submitted by MaryAnn Hagenbucher, Assistant City Manager, Longview)
During this ethics topic, we will be exploring the relationship between city council and city staff specifically focusing on the interference within operations. Every city has various types of relationships between city council and city staff. This can be especially distinguishable between small and large cities. Small cities may have more of an open-door policy where city council can directly contact city staff leaders for requests, but where should city managers draw the line? Large cities may have established formal policies where city council must go through the city manager’s office for any type of requests, but does this cause a direct barrier? This first perspective on this topic will look at a scenario where a city councilmember interferes with city staff operations and how to address these issues.
A councilmember is very concerned that public works staff is not addressing the issue of potholes on a specific road in a neighborhood where residents continue to express their complaints. The potholes have resulted from a winter storm and continue to worsen. However, the public works director has assessed that the affected road is of lower priority when comparing the condition of all city roads during a pavement analysis. The public works director provided recommendations from the pavement analysis to the entire city council where the majority agreed there were other higher priority roads to fix first. The councilmember is unhappy with the road improvement priorities and proceeds to bypass the city manager and public works director, going straight to the public works superintendent and maintenance workers to direct them to fix the potholes immediately. City staff are extremely uncomfortable with the confrontational request and unsure how to address the councilmember. The public works director becomes notified of this and immediately informs the city manager.
The city manager identifies this as a clear charter violation, but what would be the best approach on how to handle this issue of a city councilmember directing staff? The city manager weighs several options on how to approach the situation which includes having a one-on-one with the councilmember, addressing the issue with the entire city council, or filing an official complaint about the charter violation. Filing an official complaint could be an appropriate or drastic action which could potentially make matters worse if there are misunderstandings regarding the communication process. A one-on-one with the councilmember may be a difficult conversation but it is certainly one that might be done best in private depending on the relationship between the two. For the city manager, this approach could help bring a better understanding of the initial issue at hand and provide information on the processes for staff communication. The city council should all be informed and aware of the same expectations and/or policies for communication.
It would be of benefit to ensure clear expectations between city council and staff communication are established such as indicating that city council should never direct staff. As mentioned earlier, expectations may differ between organizations. Large cities may have policies where all requests and communication from city council needs to go directly to the city manager’s office. These policies could also be approved by the city council. While small cities may have informal policies where the city council can directly contact department heads for requests and information so long as the city manager is notified. Much of this is dependent on the organization and the city manager’s preferences and relationship with the city council.
Setting clear expectations for city council on communication is important to prevent interference with day-to-day operations. These expectations could be formal written policies or informally discussed with the city council, so they understand the appropriate methods for communication. Tenet 10 of the TCMA Code of Ethics states, “Resist any encroachment on professional responsibilities, believing the member should be free to carry out official policies without interference and handle each problem without discrimination on the basis of principle and justice.” Tenet 10 supports the notion that city managers should be able to perform their job duties and responsibilities without interference. This can be applied to this ethics scenario of a city councilmember directing staff to perform a request. The city manager should be able to follow the entire city council’s direction and priorities.
By establishing communication expectations with city council, a city manager can help prevent interference with city operations and staff. And vice versa, a city manager can inform staff on the process es for city council requests, so staff is educated on how to address any similar situation like the scenario. When a city councilmember directs staff to complete a request, this impedes upon the city manager’s day-to-day operations and responsibilities. Expectations should be clear and consistent amongst the entire city council to ensure each councilmember understand the proper channels for communicating and making requests within the city. Written policies or guidelines and direct conversations between the city manager and city council can help them understand the reasonings for setting expectations for communication while also building trust.
(Article submitted by Kent Souriyasak, Assistant City Manager, City of Lucas)
around the state
The Membership Committee met in the City of Mesquite to conduct interviews for scholarship candidates.
tcma educational EVENTS
2023 TCMA Annual Conference
June 8-11, 2023
Perspectives on City Management
Listen to episodes here.
Memos on Meetings
The Advocacy Committee met on March 2. Meeting minutes are available here.
The TCMA Allies Committee met on March 15 by video conference. Meeting minutes are available here. The Committee is scheduled to meet on May 17 by video conference.
The Membership Committee met on March 23-24 in Mesquite. Meeting minutes are available here.
The 100 Year Celebration Task Force is scheduled to meet on April 5 by video conference.
The TCMA Ethics Committee is scheduled to meet on April 13 by video conference.
The Board is scheduled to meet on April 21 in Deer Park.
The Public Policy Task Force meets every Thursday by video conference.