City still needs water expertise


Jarrett Atkinson brought some rare knowledge to his job as Amarillo city manager.

He’s no longer in that spot, but the need for that knowledge remains.

Atkinson is a highly regarded expert on water management and acquisition. Prior to taking over as city manager he served as an assistant to the then-manager Alan Taylor; and prior to that he served as the chief water-planning guru for the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission.

In a six-minute interview with my friend Karen Welch at Panhandle PBS, one gets a sniff of Atkinson’s expertise on water issues as he and Welch talk about some of the challenges facing city government.

Take a look.

Atkinson was essentially forced out of his job by a dramatic change at the top of City Hall’s governance. Three new City Council members were elected in May and they brought a brand new approach to governing. Atkinson is too much of a gentleman to have said it out loud and directly when he tendered his resignation, but it’s fairly clear he couldn’t work with the new council majority.

The city’s downtown revival is going to proceed. Where it will end up remains anyone’s guess at the moment.

It’s that water issue that also must remain at the top of the city’s agenda. Without water, Amarillo cannot function. Atkinson speaks with easy eloquence about the technical issues relating to drilling for the water, pulling it out of the ground and quenching the city’s thirst for well past the foreseeable future.

The city’s near- and long-term water needs will be met through the purchase of water rights, Atkinson assures Panhandle PBS viewers.

That’s fine. The city will miss his knowledge, though, on managing that priceless resource.

My hope is that the next city manager — whether it’s the current interim boss, Terry Childers  or someone else — brings water management knowledge to the job, even though Atkinson’s depth of expertise on the subject will be difficult to duplicate.