EL PASO, Texas - Lee County Commissioners on June 5 picked El Paso City Manager Joyce Wilson as their consensus No. 1 choice to become their county manager after interviewing five candidates.
Lee County's spokeswoman said Wilson was the No. 1 pick for four of the five commissioners. Roger Desjarlais is their No. 2 choice.
The commissioners will meet on June 11 and officially vote to name Wilson as their No. 1 choice and authorize negotiations to begin with her.
ABC-7 attempted to talk to Wilson at the El Paso International Airport when she arrived the night of June 5 but she walked away.
Seventy people had applied for the job since it was posted in late March.
The Lee County website does not state how much the county manager would be paid other than to state "the salary range is open and dependent upon qualifications, with a competitive benefits package. The starting salary will be based upon the knowledge and experience of the individual selected."
The last Lee County county manager had a salary of $170,000 a year. Wilson currently earns about $227,000 as city manager.
Wilson was hired as El Paso's first city manager in 2004 after a charter amendment vote to create a city manager position to run the city along with City Council. Her contract ends on Sept. 30, 2014.
Wilson has been selected as the state's Top Public Works Leader for 2013 by the Texas Chapter of the American Public Works Association (TPWA). The recognition honors individuals for excellence in their career-long achievements, expertise, service and dedication to improving the quality of life in the communities they serve. The award ceremony is this week in Waco.
Lee County has about 2,300 employees and an Fiscal Year 2012/2013 countywide budget of $1.76 billion, including both reserves and a General Fund operating budget of $457 million. Since the FY2007-08 budget, the County has had an overall reduction of 14% in staff and a $650 million reduction in the budget. The Lee County website states the county is historically fiscally conservative.
Wilson's resume states she is a "Nationally recognized leader with over 25 years of extensive local government management experience at senior management and executive levels. Experience working in demographically diverse areas and bi-national settings. Specific areas of expertise include exemplary fiscal management and high-performance, customer-focused service delivery, community capacity building, internal and external communications, economic development and community revitalization. Demonstrated oversight of significant infrastructure investments in rapid growth communities, as well as those experiencing substantial economic decline."
Mayor John Cook declined in April to give Wilson another evaluation under the current City Council. Wilson's last evluation was released in mid-December and made mention of items that she needed to work on.
There are three differences between the initial version published by a freelance journalist and the final version of Wilson's evaluation released by the City:
- Wilson's evaluation score went from 4 on the initial version to 3.97 on the final version.
- "Although members of council value your input while we formulate policy" was added to the sentence "I want you to be mindful of your role as we move forward" on the final version.
- The following paragraph was completely removed from final version of the evaluation: "You need to worry about appearances of impropriety. Your relationships with the MCA Foundation (Medical Center of the Americas Foundation) and the PDNG (Paso Del Norte Group) have raised concerns in the community. I request that you decline to serve on the board, become a member of, or serve in an advisory capacity for any entity that will contract with or seek funding from the City of El Paso."
Each of El Paso's eight city representatives filled out a survey that included open-ended questions and a comment section. The mayor's staff then averaged out the scores without the mayor looking at them.
In the evaluation, Cook said he is pleased with Wilson's performance and thinks she has helped the city move forward. He also wrote about several items that concerned him and City Council members, as well.
Cook also pointed out that Wilson's emails that became public, which some considered to be mean-spirited, were a concern to all city representatives.
"The emails are evidence you let your impatience with the process, the public and elected officials overcome your better judgment," Cook said in the evaluation. "Your comments regarding members of the public and individual council members were inappropriate and disrespectful. While we appreciate that you have publicly admitted the inappropriateness and apologized, we would like to request that for the remainder of your term as City Manager you undertake the following:
- Cultivate a culture of courtesy and respect for members of the public and elected officials. You and your staff should not engage in either written or verbal communications about members of the public or elected officials that could be considered to be inappropriate, disrespectful or insubordinate.
- Work to improve your demeanor during public meetings. Your impatience is very evident. Please wait to be recognized and do not interrupt other speakers. Several members of council have expressed concern about the manner in which you address City staff during the meetings. Staff needs to be allowed to respond to questions from members of council. Stop rushing council and the members of the public through the meetings. The weekly meetings are the manner in which the governing body conducts the business of the City and a duly called and posted meeting of council is the only time we can deliberate over the business of council and engage with the members of the public as a body.
Cook also mentioned in the evaluation that Wilson shared information with select council members and purposefully kept it from others.
"You even encouraged council members not to share information with me," Cook wrote. "I consider that insubordination and not only would I have appreciated an apology, I feel you should also undertake the following for the remainder of your term:
- "Make certain all City Council members and the Mayor are provided with the same information. While different council members are more engaged on certain topics, all elected officials should have the benefit of the same information -- even if they do not agree with the recommendations you are advancing for the consideration of the governing body.
- "Avoid taking actions that may cause divisiveness between the council. There is currently an "us and them" mentality which is being exacerbated by the fact council members believe they are not receiving the same levels of support, respect and consideration from administrative staff. You need to work to improve your working relationships with all the elected officials.
- "Make certain council is provided with enough information to properly respond to requests from the media."
Cook briefly touched on city representative comments on Wilson's deputy city managers, saying that she needs to hold her subordinates to a high standard and treat all of them equally.
"Fear is not a motivator and our employees need to think of the city as a great place to work," Cook wrote. "That said, there have been a few incidents within the past year that merit mention as examples of situations that council was less than pleased with and which require further corrective action."
At the Dec. 11, 2012 City Council meeting, Wilson thanked City Council for their "affirmation of support" after they evaluated her. "I want to thank all of you for your constructive critique of things we need to address within the organization and that I need to address personally."
Wilson released a statement on Dec. 11 in which she once again publicly apologized for the emails. Through the statement, Wilson also said the emails "created an unfortunate distraction from the important work of the city and a regrettable conflict in relationships with ... some members of council."
The city manager said she's committed to rebuilding those damaged relationships. City officials said Wilson would not comment on the evaluation any further and let her Dec. 11 statement stand as her response to it.
Cook had asked that Wilson's evaluation be moved up before the end of the year because of emails from Wilson that became public that some interpreted as mean-spirited.
In one email she called ballpark opponents "crazies" and in a separate email she referred to city representatives Carl Robinson and Ann Morgan Lilly as having the beginnings of dementia. "That was a very significant issue. I think Ms. Wilson has apologized numerous times and the council expressed their opinions on the emails but right now it's time to move on."
Robinson said he felt the evaluation was appropriate but wished council had taken more action.
"I indicated to Ms. Wilson that I was disappointed and that the abundance of emails need to be addressed specifically and publicly," Robinson at the Dec. 11 City Council meeting. "Depending on who may read those emails, some of them could be considered slanderous so I feel that there needs to be an action plan to address those not only today but in the future."
Wilson, through her statement, said she learned "all citizens are entitled to be heard and treated with respect, as are elected officials regardless of their respective positions on issues. Processes and relationships are equally as important as results."