Tag Archives: Terry Childers

Amarillo PD chief about to come back home?

This must be said about a man whose name otherwise will live in infamy in the annals of Amarillo municipal government.

The one hire that former interim City Manager Terry Childers made that qualifies as a home run was when he brought Ed Drain in to become chief of police in Amarillo, Texas. Childers eventually resigned in disgrace after popping off publicly about a constituent and making an a** of himself over a misplaced briefcase at a local hotel and a run-in he had with a 9-1-1 dispatcher.

As for Drain, he returned the concept of “community policing” to the city. He instituted progressive police policies. Drain became a presence in the community.

Well, now he’s coming back home to Plano, or so it’s being reported. The Plano Police Department announced today that Drain is its sole finalist for the chief’s job; he had served as deputy police chief when Childers lured him to the Panhandle. Drain says his hiring isn’t a done deal. Well, OK, chief. Whatever you say.

Drain said he has to undergo the requisite background check and the Plano City Council must sign off on a hiring decision.

I’ll just offer an opinion that when a city as substantial as Plano names a lone finalist for a key administrative position, then it looks like a done deal to me.

Whoever becomes the next Amarillo police chief, whenever that occurs, must continue the community policing program that Chief Drain brought back after he succeeded former Chief Robert Taylor.

As for Drain’s apparently pending return to the Metroplex, I am certain he will do a stellar job for a department with which he is intimately familiar.

Chief Drain: first-class hire for Amarillo

Terry Childers’s name pretty much is mud around Amarillo, Texas.

The one-time interim city manager came aboard after Jarrett Atkinson quit — and then “distinguished” himself by getting into a major-league snit with the city’s emergency response program in a case that became known as “Briefcasegate.” Childers misplaced his briefcase at a local hotel and then berated a dispatcher for not acting — in Childers’s mind — quickly enough to resolve his issue.

Childers lasted a year on the job, then quit — after calling a constituent a “dumb son of a b****” — and high-tailed it back to Oklahoma City.

But he did make a significant hiring decision while he was here. He hired Ed Drain as the city’s chief of police; Drain was hired initially¬†as a temporary chief, then got the permanent job.

I want to salute Childers’s decision to bring Chief Drain to Amarillo, hiring him the Plano Police Department, where he served as deputy chief.

Why the salute? Because the chief is reinvigorating an important police program that was allowed to go fallow during his immediate predecessor’s time as the city’s top cop. Chief Robert Taylor didn’t think much of “community policing.” He let it go.

Chief Drain thinks differently. He is bringing it back. To his great credit. What’s more, community policing carries great potential for increasing the APD visibility in high-crime neighborhoods while building good relations between beat officers and the citizens they take an oath to “protect and serve.”

Community policing is aimed at exposing officers to residents on an interpersonal level. Officers work with community organizations, seeking to build relationships that build trust. And better trust creates an environment for residents to be more vigilant and to report to police when they suspect someone is doing something illegal in their neighborhood.

Former Police Chief Jerry Neal moved the community policing concept forward. His successor, Taylor, had a different view; Taylor didn’t do a bad job as chief, but I wish he had maintained a program that Neal had started.

This is my way of wishing the current chief, Ed Drain, well as he reinvigorates a progressive policing environment in Amarillo.

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.

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.

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.

Welcome to the fray, mayoral candidate Nelson

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I do not know Ginger Nelson, other than what I’ve heard about her.

Solid citizen, seasoned lawyer, dedicated to Amarillo’s economic future, smart, idealistic, well-educated … and all the other good things one attaches to those who seek public office.

Nelson is running for Amarillo mayor. Hers is the first name on the municipal ballot that I expect will fill to the brim by the time registration closes for the May 2017 election.

The story I saw in the Amarillo Globe-News didn’t mention, though, a word about the current mayor, Paul Harpole.

http://amarillo.com/news/2016-12-14/it-s-official-amarillo-has-1st-mayoral-candidate

A little birdie or two has told me Harpole isn’t going to seek re-election. Officially, he’s undecided. My strong hunch is that he likely won’t run now that Nelson is running.

Nelson brings a good bit of civic involvement to this race, stemming mostly from her work on the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, an organization near and dear to Harpole’s heart.

It stands to reason, therefore, that a candidate with strong AEDC ties likely could preclude the incumbent from seeking another term. Nelson said she’s quitting the AEDC to devote all her energy to winning the mayor’s seat.

I think this bodes well for a City Council that has been roiled in conflict since the May 2015 election. Harpole has been part of what former interim City Manager Terry Childers called the “dysfunction” at City Hall.

A fresh face and fresh ideas — along with a demonstrated commitment to economic growth and stability — might be just what the city needs at this juncture of its redevelopment. It’s been a rough ride at times during the past two years: the resignation of a city manager and the abrupt departure of his interim replacement; ongoing hiccups with downtown redevelopment and the relocation of a baseball franchise to Amarillo; occasional flaring of tempers among City Council members.

I’ll await along with the rest of the city’s residents¬†Mayor Harpole’s decision on whether he intends to run. My grumbling gut tells me he’s out, paving the way for someone of Ginger Nelson’s leanings to seek to guide the city toward a bright future.

City needs to rid itself of ‘dysfunctional’ perception

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It’s been said that perception often becomes reality.

That’s occasionally a harsh truth no matter how unrealistic the perception might be in the minds of many.

Amarillo’s former interim city manager, Terry Childers, went out with a bang. No, make it a boom! He muttered a seriously profane epithet in mid-November at a constituent into a hot mic and then quit the next day. He cleared out his office and drove back to Oklahoma City.

But he had scolded the City Council about what he called the “dysfunction” within City Hall’s government apparatus and he laid the blame for that perception at the council’s feet.

Was he wrong? Was he way off the mark? Was the interim manager looking for scapegoats?

Who knows? Who should care? The perception is likely out there in the community that comprises career government administrators.

It’s a perception that the City Council must address directly, head on and candidly as it continues its search for a permanent city manager.

Whether it’s true or it’s all a figment of the former interim city manager’s mind doesn’t matter. Some potential administrative candidate might look at what Childers said and determine, “You know, I don’t want any part of that.” How many other top-drawer administrators might draw that conclusion based on the perception that’s been tossed out there by the guy who left City Hall in a huff?

Indeed, the council might want to examine precisely why the interim manager couldn’t restrain himself that fateful day when he said what he did to one of his bosses, a constituent whose property taxes helps foot the Amarillo government bill.

Therein might lie the perception that the council needs to cleanse from its public image.

Is it time to look ahead to city election? Sure, let’s do it!

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The presidential election has been decided … to the satisfaction of a minority of Americans who voted for the winner.

I won’t get into the ongoing discussion about the Electoral College.

Instead, let’s take a brief look at our own next election cycle, right here in Amarillo.

We’re going to elect our City Council next May. Our city charter puts all five seats up for election at the same time. We get to keep ’em all, toss ’em all out or decide on some variation in between.

The May 2015 election produced a pretty radical shakeup on the council. Voters elected three new guys: Randy Burkett, Mark Nair and Elisha Demerson. Voters re-elected two others, Mayor Paul Harpole and Brian Eades; then Eades quit and moved to Colorado and he’s been succeeded by Lisa Blake, who emerged as the frontrunner after a highly public interview process with four other finalists selected by the council.

To say we’ve had a rough time of it at City Hall since the May 2015 election would be the height (or depth) of understatement.

City Manager Jarrett Atkinson quit, along with a number of¬†other senior city administrators. ¬†Then the council hired Terry Childers as the interim city manager. That didn’t turn out too well, as Childers this past week quit his job one year to the day after being named the interim manager.

Childers messed up one time too many.

Now the council has to get busy and find someone who wants to take hold of the city’s administrative reins. This is the only hire the council makes directly. It whiffed with Childers. Are these folks capable of filling this critical job? We shall see.

The council has gotten involved in some disputes among its members. The mayor has been at odds openly with the three new fellows, and they have been with him. All this has occurred as the city has embarked on a major makeover of its downtown district. Holy cow, dudes!

So, the question of the moment is this: Will the three new council members face a serious challenge from someone — or from an organized group of residents —¬†if and/or when¬†they seek re-election?

They all promised “change” when they were elected to the council. They certainly have delivered on their promise. Collegiality has given way to chaos. Decorum has been replaced by dysfunction.

The issue that awaits voters, though, is whether the change has been worth the tumult that has boiled over at City Hall.

We’ll find out in due time.

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.