A national search ended up at home today when Dallas hired a new city manager. It’s A.C. Gonzalez, who was No. 2 to Mary Suhm, the former city manager, for more than a decade.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings started the hour-long discussion, and one by one, council members weighed in, sometimes using too many sports analogies, and other times, just getting straight to the point.
Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates said she was impressed with the other finalists -- David Cooke from Wake County in North Carolina, and Deanna Santana from Oakland, Cal. But then she turned to Gonzalez.
“I think you have the votes to be our next city manager,” she said. “And I, too, will be voting for you. But I have to be honest and say it’s with some apprehension, hesitation and concern.”
She didn’t explain her reservations, nor did she bring up last summer’s controversy involving Gonzalez, the Yellow Cab Co., and the transportation service Uber. Gonzalez was blamed for trying to push new regulations on Uber that were crafted by the cab company.
Gates simply wanted to make one thing clear.
“You have promised change,” she said. “And we heard you, heard you in the interviews. You’ve promised us change, and I want you to know that I am here to work with you, and support you. But I’m also going to hold you to the fire.”
Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway said he’s voting for Gonzalez because of his leadership and experience with the city.
“You know where our deficits are, you know where our concerns are, and you know what, and we don’t have to learn with you,” Caraway said.
Before the final vote, Rawlings recognized that some didn’t want to make the interim city manager permanent. The Dallas Fraternal Order of Police publicly opposed Gonzalez.
“It’s natural to think that the grass on the other side of the fence sure changes quicker than on our side, but we as a City Council today are suggesting something different," Rawlings said.
The vote was unanimous, and left Gonzalez, well, almost speechless.
“I’m greatly honored,” Gonzalez said. “Greatly honored, by what you all said, and more importantly by what you all decided.”
He told council members: This vote of confidence in me is an indication of your belief that positive change can and will be from within.
More from KERA's earlier coverage:
Dallas City Council members have unanimously voted to name A.C. Gonzalez the new city manager. Before the vote, they spent nearly an hour this morning showering him with praise. They say they'll work with him to improve the city.
Update, 10:23 a.m. Tuesday: Who is A.C. Gonzalez? He’s a seasoned Dallas City Hall veteran with 15 years experience working for the city. Since June, he’s been interim city manager. Previously, he was an assistant city manager, overseeing various departments, including aviation, Dallas Fire-Rescue, municipal courts, Office of Emergency Management and Dallas police. Gonzalez has served two stints at City Hall – first from 1988 to 1995 and again since 2006. From 1995 to 1999, Gonzalez was the deputy superintendent and superintendent of the Austin Independent School District. Before returning to City Hall, Gonzalez was the president of a privately-owned investment company. Read his City Hall bio here. Also, The Dallas Morning News profiled Gonzalez in this recent story. A city of Dallas press release states: "As Dallas first assistant city manager, Gonzalez led the effort to build the Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel, managed the Love Field Modernization Program, and won a federal grant bringing street cars back to Dallas." Also: "From 1988 to 1995, he was assistant city manager of the City of Dallas and led negotiations of the Dallas Stars Reunion Arena lease; developed and implemented programs such as Operation CLEAN, Volunteers in Patrol, SAFE (Support, Abatement, Forfeiture, Enforcement), and Expanded Neighborhood Patrol."
Update, 10:02 a.m. Tuesday: A.C. Gonzalez is addressing the council: "Your confidence in me is an indication that your belief is that positive change can and will be achieved from within. I’m confident we can get started on those changes sooner rather than later. As we discussed in the interviews, we are already working on changes in the systems and putting forth new solutions. Change will not be instant, nor will it be change for change sake. It will be strategic. It will be with an eye on how we can make it a better community for all of our citizens. I love our city. Dallas is my home. I am extremely excited about the prospects of working with you all."
Update, 9:58 a.m. Tuesday: Following council members' speeches, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings offered his remarks: He said he’ll support Gonzalez “not only because he’s had a great career in the city sector, not only because he’s led some of the most important projects for the city of Dallas, not only for his work ethic, not only for his passion for our city and not only because he’s Latino, which is very very important …”
Rawlings also said: “He has promised me there will be significant changes in the next six months and I’m asking our city council to support him on these important changes. By putting Mr. Gonzalez into the city manager position, I believe he will accomplish what we all want, continued growth through a better City Hall and we’ll get there quicker.”
In addition, Rawlings said: "While there are many things that City Hall does well, there are many things we must improve upon to keep that positive growth happening. The reality is we are too slow for our citizens. We’re not responsive enough for our citizens. We are too slow for business that want to step up and expand. And we must be more transparent in the decisions that each of us at City Hall make.”
Original post: Dallas City Council members are discussing their decision to hire a new city manager this morning – and all comments indicate it will be A.C. Gonzalez, the interim city manager. They’re showering him with lots of praise, saying they’ll work with him to improve the city.
Here are excerpts from City Council members before the vote:
Carolyn Davis: “I hope you can help grow our downtown, retail, at the end of the day, it’s not going to be easy. That’s what life is about. At the end of the day, I think you will do what’s right for the city.”
Vonciel Jones Hill: “You have my hearty support…. The only change I would ask of you is that you continue on the upward trajectory that we’re on. We were hit hard as any city was city was by the recession. You were here at that time. You were here and you’re still here and I’m glad. You have huge shoes to fill. Mary Suhm was and is larger than life both here and nationally. She has a national reputation one of the city managers that is emulated across this country. You’re not Mary Suhm and I don’t expect you to be … I expect you to be A.C. Gonzalez.”
Monica Alonzo: “What we do need to do together to make this city more vibrant again together. … At the end of the day it’s what’s in the best interest of our constituents. … I’m here to work with you and all our colleagues to be able to make that happen. … The decision is clear and we want to work together and I look forward to it.”
Sandy Greyson: “I know that since you are such a good listener, you’ve heard everything we’ve said this morning and I know you will listen to all segments of the community – the business segments, the neighborhoods. I know you’re willing to engage all of them…. I believe you are the right person at the right time.”
Rick Callahan: "We’ve had our regular season, we’ve had our playoff run and we’ve gotten down to the big thing. There was just no question I think as we went through the process that A.C. was the guy. We had three good finalists and they all had their positives and they had things that weren’t so positive at times. It all came down to basically I think people were looking for an insider, someone who knew what was going on around here.
"I want you to challenge to embattle the indifference round here and the complacency and the mediocrity and some of the system failures that we have. I want to challenge you to be a leader now that you have the reigns. I want you to challenge, to be assertive. You’re an approachable guy. You are a good listener. You have a lot of attributes that a leader needs to have. … We do have a restless council and I think many people have indicated you’ll probably be on a short leash, but you do have the opportunity to step out and be your own person."