El Paso city manager could play a role in Saturday's election

POSTED: 05:17 PM MDT May 10, 2013    UPDATED: 06:33 PM MST Jan 15, 2014 
EL PASO, Texas -

A political researcher said Joyce Wilson may play a factor in El Paso's mayoral election. Wilson is El Paso's first city manager, after the city adopted the city manager form of government nearly 10 years ago.

Her position was created to ensure continuity during revolving, council elections. For some, she's the tough administrator who's meticulously executed an ambitious vision for the city. Others perceive her as having much more control than she should. And Political Science Professor, Dr. Gregory Rocha believes she may sway some voters even though she is not campaigning for any candidate.

He said Wilson represents much more than an administrative position.

"For better or for worse, she's come to personify what people think about that. The human face on the actions of government, in lieu of an incumbent."

She symbolizes the vision and direction of the city government, Rocha said. "We've done some things and they haven't been that popular - baseball and providing domestic benefits. It's been a controversial four years- and that will still stir up ire in some people."

Wilson does not vote on those issues. She advises the council and then executes and implements their policies and decisions. A local government watchdog group, through an open records request last year, discovered emails in which Wilson criticized council members and some constituents.

 "To some people she's ... the manipulator behind those who are presumably in control and then there are those who say, 'look at her awards that she's won, her record, you have to break some eggs to make an omelet," Rocha said.

From downtown development to an ambitious public transportation overhaul, Wilson has been in the middle of it and for some political candidates; the city manager form of government is part of their political platform.

"It's too much power - consolidated in the city manager form of government. There are too many ordinances that have given power to our city manager. We need to reign in city management," said Candidate Hector Lopez during a recent ABC-7 mayoral debate. Jorge Artelejo and Jaime O. Perez have also been critical of the city manager form of government.

Rocha said the issue may sway some voters.

"You see someone like Steve Ortega who is a strong supporter of Joyce Wilson and all the way to the other extreme, someone like Jaime O Perez who vilifies her as often as he can."