The Year Began With a New City Council and a New City Manager

After tussling with Council, Spencer Cronk got canned

Spencer Cronk during a City Council meeting on February 15, 2023 (Photo by John Anderson)

February 15: Was it Spencer Cronk's police contract gambit or the city's fumbled response to Winter Storm Mara that finally did in the increasingly resented former city manager? Probably a bit of both, but either way, February – just a few weeks after Mayor Kirk Watson and the new City Council assumed office – saw the end of Cronk's tenure as the city's most powerful unelected leader. Council fired Cronk on a 10-1 vote February 15, ending his five-year stint atop the city's organizational chart. By the end, Council was so fed up with Cronk they had no problem eating a $463,000 bill to push him out the door.

Cronk's departure gave way to the Jesús Garza era. His replacement has spent his time as interim city manager (i.e., temporary, provisional) making as many sweeping, lasting changes to city government as seemingly possible. Garza – a longtime Watson ally who served as city manager during Watson's first term as mayor in the 1990s and who ran the political action committee that helped get Watson elected to a third term in 2022 – has consolidated power and appointed his and Watson's longtime allies to key leadership rules, including through questionable contracting methods. The result has been the strongest mayoralty Austin has seen in years.

By the end, Council was so fed up with Cronk they had no problem eating a $463,000 bill to push him out the door.

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