T.C. Broadnax Selected as Austin’s Next City Manager

City Council to initiate hiring process next week

T.C. Broadnax is the final candidate (photo by Naina Srivastava)

The search for Austin’s next city manager has come to an end.

After a three-month search conducted by headhunter firm Mosaic, a single public forum with the two finalists produced by that search, and half a day of interviews with City Council members, on March 26 Mayor Kirk Watson announced that outgoing Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax is Council’s preferred candidate. They plan to offer him the job formally at next week’s Council meeting, April 4.

In a statement responding to the announcement, Broadnax said he was honored to be selected as the next chief executive of Austin’s government. “With the continued growth of our state’s capital city,” Broadnax said, “I am mindful of the critical needs we must urgently address and I am committed to doing so with a collaborative, transparent, inclusive and equitable approach.”

Broadnax likely edged out the other finalist, Sara Hensley, for two primary reasons. One, Broadnax has big-city experience – Dallas has an estimated population of about 1.3 million people, per the latest American Community Survey figures (Austin has about 983,000 people). Council members were looking for a candidate who had experience navigating the kind of challenges Austin has faced in the past few years and will face in the next few. Meanwhile, Denton has a much smaller population of about 160,000 people.

Secondly, Hensley has a history in Austin, which seems to have worked against her in the minds of some CMs. Prior to taking the Denton city manager job, which she currently holds, Hensley worked in Austin for 11 years, including stints as the director of the Parks and Recreation Department and interim assistant city manager. But some CMs wanted something of a fresh start with the next manager – someone who could bring an outsider’s perspective to Austin government.

At the March 25 public forum hosted by the city, Broadnax emphasized his commitment to equity and inclusion at Dallas City Hall and trumpeted the city’s recent success with a rapid rehousing program. He said the program, which is designed to move people living on the streets into apartments for around a year, launched in October 2021 with the goal of housing 2,500 people. The program exceeded that goal and, as of last week, the Dallas housing staff reported that it had housed around 3,600 individuals. “We can get that same kind of focus [in Austin] to how we deal with our unhoused and really have an all-hands-on-deck attitude so we can have similar types of successes here,” Broadnax said.

Just hours before Council selected Broadnax, he and Hensley both addressed questions from the media. Broadnax said one of his top priorities if selected would be hiring a permanent chief to lead the Austin Police Department, which is currently headed by interim Chief Robin Henderson. He emphasized that the search should be conducted openly and with public input.

Broadnax was also asked how he would approach managing the police chief – who is subordinate to the city manager – if conflicts arise between policy direction initiated by City Council and execution of that vision by the chief. This dynamic has been a frequent problem over the past four years, from implementing Council direction on deprioritizing possession of marijuana offenses to implementing reforms to the Austin Police Academy and cooperating with the creation of a robust system of civilian police oversight.

“It’s my responsibility to lay out and share with the Council how [their vision] will be implemented,” Broadnax said. “And so I have no reservations that things that we’re required to do, we’re going to do. And folks who work for me would obviously understand that and actually find ways to implement the things that we’ve been directed to implement.”

Next week, Council will authorize staff to negotiate and execute a contract with Broadnax for the city manager job. His salary is likely to approach or exceed $400,000 annually (interim City Manager Jesús Garza was paid around $350,000 in 2023). The negotiations will also identify a start date for Broadnax, who is expected to officially step down as Dallas city manager in June.

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