Tag Archives: Jarrett Atkinson

Atkinson lands on his feet

Jarrett Atkinson was, in effect, shown the door at Amarillo City Hall when voters elected a new majority to their City Council in 2015.

The city manager had done a good job for Amarillo during his six years at the helm. The new council majority saw things differently. Atkinson gave it a shot — for a brief period of time — before he submitted his resignation.

He said all the right things upon his departure. He didn’t make waves. He didn’t burn bridges publicly.

Atkinson took some time off and then ventured two hours south along Interstate 27 to become Lubbock’s city manager, where, according to an article in the Amarillo Globe-News, he has had a productive and eventful first year at that city’s administrative wheel.

It gladdens my heart to know that Atkinson has remained in public service.

It is true that I’ve lost touch with him since he left Amarillo City Hall; in truth I lost touch when I left the Amarillo Globe-News in August 2012. But I remained a strong supporter of the city manager, even as he struggled under the City Council’s new majority, which lasted two years before voters decided to clean them all out and installed an entirely new council in the spring of 2017.

I admired Atkinson’s expertise on water management. He took Amarillo many steps forward in its acquisition of water rights, helping secure the city’s future development. Atkinson was the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission’s go-to guy on water management before he made the move to Amarillo City Hall.

Moreover, I trust he’ll bring that same expertise to his new gig in Lubbock.

While it is true that Atkinson was universally loved and admired by the staff at Amarillo City Hall, I continue to look at the progress the city made during his time as city manager.

Downtown Amarillo took many steps forward on his watch. The city continued its moderate and steady growth. The city’s overall economic health remains strong, built largely on the municipal administration that Atkinson led.

I will continue to wish Jarrett Atkinson well as he continues his public service career. Lubbock has gained a solid hand at the municipal wheel.

Manager gets strong statement of support

So, the Jared Miller era at Amarillo City Hall is off to a rousing start.

The City Council has voted unanimously to hire Miller as the next city manager. I am heartened by this news. I do not harbor concerns that the new manager has nowhere to go but down after this.

It’s been a rocky time at City Hall. Two city managers have quit under duress. The first one to go, Jarrett Atkinson, couldn’t work with the new council majority; the second one to split, interim manager Terry Childers, couldn’t control his big mouth and resigned after cursing at a constituent.

I’m going to hope now for a smooth transition — which is kind of in the news these days, you know — as Miller gets set to grasp the reins of municipal government.

City Hall is in dire need of some stability.

Not only did Atkinson quit, but a number of key senior staffers bailed about the same time. The city attorney resigned and an assistant city manager retired. A new council member called for the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board to quit. The interim city manager realigned downtown development operations and moved many of the AEDC functions into City Hall departments.

I guess the concern Miller needs to address is how he’s going to calm the occasionally stormy waters at City Hall. I take heart in the unanimous vote by the council, which hasn’t always spoken with a single voice since this council bunch took office in the spring of 2015. The manager needs to know he has council support for the big job that awaits him as he moves from San Marcos to Amarillo.

One more point about the council vote: I am glad that this council acted quickly, rather than waiting — as some have advocated — for the next election. The Amarillo Globe-News editorialized in favor of the council waiting until after the May 6 council election, apparently thinking that a potential wholesale turnover among council members could produce a set of councilors with vastly different priorities.

Nuts! The city charter empowers the current council to act.¬†It chose to move forward. Besides, with just a two-year gap between elections, there’s never a perfect time for an Amarillo City Council to make¬†such a¬†critical hiring decision.

Here we go. The new city manager has unanimous support among the folks who hired him. Let’s get busy, Mr. Manager.

Water management must remain a top city priority

Maybe I am preaching to the proverbial choir, but I’ll preach¬†this “sermon”¬†anyway.

Amarillo City Council members’ decision to hire Jared Miller as our next city manager came after a discussion of issues that lacked one critical component: water management and conservation.

I don’t know, of course, what council members discussed in executive session with Miller and the four other finalists for the city manager job. Perhaps they talked openly, candidly and freely with them all about an issue that had become a top priority of the man they succeeded, Jarrett Atkinson.

It needs to remain there.

I say this feeling a bit strange, given all the moisture that’s fallen on the High¬†Plains during the past 24 hours. It’s only a drop in the grand scheme of our water needs.

Atkinson came to the city¬†after serving as a water planner for the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission. He is an acknowledged expert on water resources and knowing how to conserve what is without question the most valuable resource we have in this region. I am quite certain he is going to bring that knowledge to bear in Lubbock, where he has just begun as that city’s manager.

The city — working with the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority — has done a great job of securing water rights to keep us flush with water (pun intended, I suppose) for the next couple hundred years. Atkinson played a big role in securing those rights.

The city’s aggressive water-rights-acquisition policy has helped us forestall many of the mandatory water-use restrictions that have been implemented in many cities throughout the state.

The city’s need to conserve and protect this resource doesn’t diminish even with the acquisition of those water rights and the relationship the city has with CRMWA and other water planning entities.

One of the Amarillo city manager’s many duties must be to keep both eyes focused intently on water we’re pulling out of the Ogallala Aquifer and from Lake Meredith.

I will anticipate hearing Jared Miller’s perspective on how we manage the one resource that gives life to the High Plains of Texas.

Memo to council: let the city manager … manage!

Jared Miller is walking into either the job of his dreams or … of his worst nightmare.

Amarillo’s newly named city manager is inheriting a big job. I wish him all the very best as he takes administrative command of a $300 million annual budget and a payroll of more than 2,000 public servants.

They all work for us — you and me. So, in fact, do the five individuals who hired Miller to become the next city manager.

But here’s the deal: The City Council has been thought by some around the city to be a meddlesome bunch at times.

I spoke the other day to a former city staffer who left recently to take another job. The staffer and I were talking about the five finalists who were competing for the manager’s job. I got the question: “What do you think of them?” I responded I thought they all were fine candidates and that any one of them would do a good job as city manager.

“If they’ll let him manage,” came the response from my friend.

I have no personal knowledge of this, but I have heard the whispers, gripes and some chatter around Amarillo about alleged meddling by council members in staffers’ activities. If it’s true, it cannot continue.

Amarillo’s strong-manager form of government entrusts the city manager with tremendous administrative authority. He hires all the department heads: police and fire chiefs, assistant city¬†managers, city attorneys and so on. His job is to oversee every single aspect of¬†the city’s governing mechanism.

The manager also is obligated to follow policy set by the City Council.¬†Setting policy is where council members’ involvement ends, except to field concerns¬†from constituents they encounter at the grocery store, PTA meetings,¬†in houses of worship and perhaps across the back fence.

Then the proper reaction to those concerns would be to refer the complainer to the appropriate department head or perhaps to the city manager.

The new city manager is stepping into a post that has been the subject of considerable controversy since the May 2015 municipal election that brought us three new council members.

City Manager Jarrett Atkinson quit more than a year ago. The council hired an interim manager, Terry Childers, who promptly got entangled in a public relations nightmare of his own involving the emergency communications center; then he quit in late 2016 after calling a constituent a profane name.

City Hall hasn’t exactly been a peaceful and tranquil place.

This is the environment that awaits Jared Miller.

I¬†am confident the¬†new city manager will succeed … if¬†the City Council lets him do his job.

Welcome aboard, Jared Miller

So, it’s going to be Jared Miller taking his post as Amarillo’s next city manager.

I’ve spoken already about the process that brought Miller and four other city manager finalists to city residents’ attention. The process worked well and the City Council blessed itself with a good pool of five finalists from which to choose.

Miller is the current San Marcos city manager. The budget he handles there is a bit less than what he’ll manage in Amarillo; he supervises an employment payroll of a good bit less as well.

The council will pay him about a quarter-million bucks a year. He’ll earn it.

I’m going to make one request of the new guy: Find a way to keep Bob Cowell on your management team.

Cowell was another finalist for the permanent city manager’s job. He’d been named interim manager after Terry Childers popped off in November at a constituent and then quit abruptly. Childers had been brought in as an interim manager after City Manager Jarrett Atkinson quit a little more than a year ago.

Cowell knows the ropes. He knows the players, including the five people who serve on the City Council. He brings institutional knowledge of Amarillo’s recent political turbulence. He could be a valuable resource for City Hall’s new man of the house.

I am going to offer a word of trust that the council has chosen well as well as a word of hope that the council will allow him to exercise the administrative authority — without interference from the council — that the city charter mandates.

Welcome to Amarillo, Jared Miller.

You’ll need to get busy. In a big hurry.

City Council gets an ‘A’ for effort

I’m going to assign the Amarillo City Council a letter grade for its attempt to¬†present five qualified city manager candidates seeking to become the individual chosen to manage City Hall’s complex government machinery.

That would be an “A.” For effort. The council brought the five individuals out tonight to a meet-and-greet reception at the Civic Center’s Heritage Room. My best guess on the number of folks who attended? About 120.

As for the¬†community’s response to the council’s outreach effort,¬†let’s lower our sights. I’ll give the¬†rest of Amarillo a “C+.”

You see, I didn’t notice a lot of, oh, “regular folks” at tonight’s reception. I didn’t¬†recognize any auto mechanics, grocery store clerks, shoe salespeople, fast-food restaurant¬†managers, beef processing plant employees … well, you get the idea.

I did see some lawyers, some folks involved with local government in some form or fashion; I noticed one well-heeled residential and commercial developer; I shook the hands of some City Council candidates; I noticed one Potter County commissioner and another former county commissioner; and a retired college administrator.

My wish¬†as I drove downtown tonight to attend this reception was to see a larger representation of the community at-large.¬†Those who didn’t attend missed an interesting and engaging interaction with the five men¬†the council is considering for the city manager’s job.

This is a huge deal, folks. The city manager will be asked¬†— according to¬†a friend who’s fairly¬†familiar with the atmospherics at City Hall — to “fill a lot of holes.” A lot of key personnel have departed City Hall in recent months, given all the turmoil that’s erupted there — with the resignation of City Manager Jarrett Atkinson and several key senior staff associates and then the sudden departure just a few weeks ago of the interim manager, Terry Childers.

The next manager will have to oversee a budget of several hundred million dollars. He will have to manage the¬†progress of downtown’s extreme makeover. He’ll have to¬†figure out how¬†to implement the expenditure of money to repair¬†and¬†rehabilitates streets.

The city manager will become¬†the face and the voice of the city’s administration. He will have tremendous responsibility to serve¬†a city of 200,000 souls who¬†depend on the city to deliver services paid for with taxpayers’ money.

If only more of the community had come out tonight to get an up-close look at the men vying for this critical job.

The City Council is now faced with the kind of “headache” elected governing bodies always seek. It gets to choose from among five competent, experienced and seasoned municipal and county administrators.

A little birdie told me tonight the decision could come quickly.

I¬†encouraged one of the council members tonight only to “choose well.” He smiled.

City manager slate looks solid, competent

Amarillo City Council members might have delivered their constituents an early Christmas present.

It comes in the form of a slate of five finalists for city manager, each of whom appears qualified, competent and able to lead the administration of a city on the move.

To be totally candid, the on-paper quality of the finalists surprises me, given the tempest, turmoil and tumult that’s been City Hall’s curse for the past year. Councilman Mark Nair believes the quality of the finalists is a testament to the perception beyond the city limits that Amarillo is a fine place to work and do business.

One of the finalists, interestingly, is Bob Cowell, the current interim city manager. It’s interesting to me because Cowell didn’t apply for the permanent job when it came open after City Manager Jarrett Atkinson quit shortly after the City Council — with its three new members — took office in the summer of 2015. He thinks City Hall has achieved a level of stability that makes the manager’s job more attractive.

The finalists comprise a number of individuals — all of whom are white males, by the way — with many years of municipal government experience. Some have been city managers; others have county government exposure. Four of the finalists have extensive experience in Texas local government, which in itself is a positive element to bring to this job.

Who’s the favorite? I haven’t a clue. I won’t go there, given my abysmal track record of predicting such things.

Check out the link below. It contains the resumes of all five finalists.

http://amarillo.com/local-news/2016-12-23/amarillo-city-council-selects-city-manager-finalists

I do, though, want to restate an earlier comment about who should make this selection. I believe the current council needs to move on this; it need not wait for the May 2017 election and hand this task off to the next City Council. The city charter gives the council the authority to make this hiring decision, which is the only one the council makes under our strong-manager form of government.

I get that the city has gone too long as it is without a permanent chief administrator. The former interim city manager, Terry Childers, was supposed to stay on the job until after the next election. Then he exhibited some profoundly bad form by mouthing off with a profane epithet to a constituent during a City Council meeting.

Childers submitted his letter of resignation, cleared out his office and hit the road.

He’s a goner.

Amarillo’s future — with a big downtown redevelopment project already underway, along with initiatives throughout the city¬†— awaits the next city manager, whoever he is.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

Go ahead, City Council, and pick a city manager

The question has been raised publicly in Amarillo: Should the current City Council select the next city manager or should it hold off until after the May 2017 municipal election?

The city’s daily newspaper, the Globe-News, editorialized today that the council needs to wait for the election and let the next council make the call. Its reason is that the council has dragged its feet for more than a year in finding a permanent successor to Jarrett Atkinson, who resigned and who since has been hired as city manager in Lubbock. So what’s the rush now?

http://amarillo.com/editorial/2016-12-21/editorial-new-council-should-select-city-manager

I’ll take issue with my former employer on this one.

The current council has the authority to act under the city charter. Why not, then, go ahead and make the call?

The council recently announced plans to cull the list of applicants down to 10 or so semi-finalists. From that shortened list, it will select a crop of finalists and then present them to the public. Then it will make the only direct hiring decision the charter allows the council to deliver.

Look at it this way: The council’s authority to make the decision doesn’t diminish just because an election is just six months away. The council’s power to select a city manager is as valid as, say, the power vested in the president of the United States to make an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Recall that Barack Obama recommended Merrick Garland to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put the brakes on that process by declaring the president is a “lame duck” and that the next president needs to make the appointment. McConnell played pure partisan politics by stonewalling this appointment process.

A City Council delay in naming a city manager could smell just as rank.

The city needs a permanent hand at the municipal till. Yes, the city has a competent interim manager in Bob Cowell, who well might be among the finalists selected by the council when it makes that critical decision.

If the city was to wait until after the May election, then it would just be another two years before the next election, in 2019. One might argue that a two-year window between elections is too brief as it is.

The current council well might face a stout challenge at the ballot box this spring. There are rumblings all over the city that Mayor Paul Harpole is going to step aside. What about the rest of them?

So, my own feeling is that the current council ought to proceed and do what it should have done months ago. It should pick a competent, strong and fair-minded chief city administrator who exhibits the potential to work well with whomever takes office after the next municipal election.

There is no compelling reason to wait. The city charter gives the current council the authority to act.

And it should.

Childers is gone; let’s get busy finding permanent manager

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Terry Childers’ sudden departure this week as Amarillo’s interim city manager brings to mind the question that has been nagging at a lot of us around the city.

What’s taking the City Council so long to find a permanent manager?

Childers came on board exactly one year ago after Jarrett Atkinson — Lubbock’s brand new city manager — quit as Amarillo city manager. Childers was seen as a fixer, someone who could repair what supposedly was broken at City Hall.

The council started looking for a permanent manager. Then it stopped looking. Childers would stay on until after next spring’s municipal election, or so it was supposed to go.

Then he popped off one time too many. He called a constituent a “stupid son of a b****.” No can say such a thing, Mr. Manager. You may go now.

So, he did. Childers tendered his resignation and then skedaddled back to Oklahoma City. This brings up a side issue. Childers’ resignation letter mentioned his final day being Dec. 16, but he cleared out his office and left. My understanding is that he’s done … but do we pay him for his final month anyway?

Amarillo ought to be able to attract top-drawer administrative talent. We’re a city on the move. We’ve been in constant growth mode for several decades. We’re in the midst of an extreme makeover downtown. The position pays well, about a quarter-million bucks a year, give or take a few thousand.

Is it the “dysfunction” on the City Council, which Childers himself described some months ago, that keeps quality applicants from seeking this job? It’s reasonable to wonder such a thing, given that the council majority changed dramatically after the May 2015 election.

Amarillo has to get its municipal government structure straightened out. I’ve long believed we’re better than to wallow in the kind of back-biting, sniping, griping and petulance we’ve heard coming from City Hall over the past year or so.

This might be a good time for Mayor Paul Harpole to conduct one of those “rolling quorums” designed to get everyone aboard the same ship. The council cannot meet as a group and talk privately about public issues without¬†violating state open meetings laws.

So, it might be wise for the mayor — who fancies himself as a take-charge guy — to talk to each council member one at a time and persuade each of them that the time has arrived for the five-member choir to start singing from the same hymnal.

A city of 200,000 residents doesn’t run itself. Especially now, with so much work to be finished … and so much more to do.

Atkinson lands on his feet; Amarillo still on the deck

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It’s official.

Lubbock’s municipal management leadership team is whole again, while Amarillo’s team has taken a header into the crapper.

Jarrett Atkinson — the former Amarillo city manager — is taking the helm as Lubbock city manager. The Lubbock City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to offer Atkinson the job. He’ll take it and he’ll then bring his substantial expertise on city issues — notably water management and development — to his new job.

Amarillo’s municipal future is decidedly less rosy at the moment.

Its interim city manager, Terry Childers, has quit after mouthing off into a “hot mic” about a constituent, calling him a “stupid son of a b****.” It’s only the latest intemperate remark that Childers has delivered during the year he served as interim manager, a post he took after Atkinson was forced to quit the top job at Amarillo City Hall.

To worsen matters, the Amarillo Globe-News took a decidedly unprofessional approach to chastising Childers by publishing a two-word “editorial” on its Opinion page. “Goodbye Terry” the paper blared on the page in gigantic type. That’s it. Nothing else.

Childers clearly needed to be taken to the woodshed, but it should have occurred in the form of a studied, well-researched and stern editorial commentary.

I would laugh out loud at the paper’s ridiculously chickens*** approach, except that it saddens and disgusts me that the paper’s publisher has taken his personal feud with Childers onto the page in¬†such a¬†manner.

What cannot yet be determined is whether such stupidity has inflicted a mortal wound on the city’s effort to lure a top-tier administrator to become its next city manager.

Childers’ exit in this manner all by itself¬†quite likely could¬†be¬†enough to dissuade such applicants from wanting anything to do with Amarillo’s dysfunctional governance. I’m still shaking my head over what the newspaper has done to potentially worsen matters.

Congratulations belong to Jarrett Atkinson and his new employers in Lubbock. Amarillo, meanwhile, deserves wishes of good luck as it staggers back to its feet in the wake of its latest embarrassment.