Interim City: The Biggest Local News Stories of 2017
Welcome to Austin, where a quarter of city management has been temporary. That’s just the beginning of our issues.
Thirteen of the city's 55 departments are currently overseen by interim, acting, or temporary directors, managers, and chiefs. That's 24%. And while it would be unfair to staffers working within those departments to suggest that the city's woes this year came as the result of their boss' statuses, the logjam hasn't helped to smooth things out.
Austin steps into 2018 seeking stability in Resource Recovery, APD, Animal Services, Parks and Recreation, Public Health, Watershed Protection, and Aviation. We'll need a chief labor relations officer and new police monitor, two assistant city managers, and a chief financial officer.
Much of the responsibility to fill those positions will fall on Spencer Cronk, the incoming city manager, there to patch the plug of positional permanence that sprung a leak last summer, after Marc Ott moved to Washington. And a few of these will be easy: interim City Manager Elaine Hart should return to CFO; interim Assistant City Manager Joe Pantalion, an executive in the Watershed Protection Department since 2001, seems like a strong candidate to go back; likewise Sara Hensley to PARD. You could see Deven Desai leave the Office of the Police Monitor and replace Larry Watts as labor relations officer. That was his job before Margo Frasier left the OPM, and over the past year the position has endured Tom Stribling's death and the return of Larry Watts, the first person to hold that office. Can't imagine he won't want to get back to retirement ....
Should that transition occur, it'll be interesting to see who replaces Desai, and who that person will watch over as chief at APD. Art Acevedo's chief of staff Brian Manley rose in the ranks from patrol over the course of 27 years, and has done an adequate job as interim. But new chiefs often come from out of town – and Cronk will be too. Throughout the city, he may seek to make it his own.
With that process ongoing, Austin steps into 2018 with a plethora of problems and sticky issues to get through – many of them, detailed within this package, punted from this interim year to next. We look forward to re-addressing those struggles, and the new nameplates to be made.