The Austin Chronicle

Change Constant at City Hall

By Mike Clark-Madison, June 11, 2004, News

As City Manager Toby Futrell prepares for this year’s upcoming budget spectacular, her supporting cast members find themselves in new roles – after the latest in an ongoing series of departures, promotions, and retirements among Futrell’s management team. Most notably, city Budget Officer Rudy Garza has been tapped to become the acting assistant city manager over “protective services” – including police, fire, and EMS – in addition to carrying this year’s budget toward its September date with City Council destiny.

Garza is replacing Assistant City Manager Lisa Gordon, who was herself given the public-safety portfolio only two weeks ago, switching jobs with ACM Laura Huffman, who now supervises the city’s four planning-and-development departments. Futrell says this switch was timed to fall after the approval of a new “meet and confer” agreement with the Austin Police Association – largely overseen by Huffman – but before the beginning of collective-bargaining talks with the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters. But Gordon announced this week (apparently unexpectedly) that she’s taking a city-manager job in the Atlanta suburb of East Point, Ga., leaving Futrell with a hole to fill, in a hurry.

Hence the double-duty for Garza, whom Futrell had been considering to move up to fill a different set of shoes – those of Deputy City Manager Joe Canales, who’s eligible to retire, and is expected to do so in 2005. Canales will be handling the firefighters’ contract talks, the city manager says, while Garza finishes the fiscal 2005 budget process with help from acting ACM and former city Chief Financial Officer John Stephens – who has technically already retired – and Stephens’ deputy Vickie Schubert, who is herself eligible to retire and likely soon will. (This is on top of last year’s retirements of key staff in the parks, development-review, public works, and housing departments.)

So Futrell is looking at having to replace a number of “invaluable, irreplaceable long-term employees,” she says, with more to come. “By the end of this fiscal year, or in less than four months, almost 25% of my executive team is eligible for retirement. You’re going to see more surprises.”

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