Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Alamo Heights is searching for its next city manager.
After more than seven years at City Hall, Mark Browne will be leaving at year's end to take up the city manager duties in Schertz.
Browne notified Alamo Heights Mayor Bobby Rosenthal and City Council in late November about accepting the job offer from Schertz.
Schertz had spent months seeking a new city manager after John Kessel's resignation last January.
The Alamo Heights Council spent a few minutes at its regular Monday meeting thanking Browne for his service and presented him with a framed certificate of appreciation.
"It's been a fabulous time. It's a fantastic city," Browne told the Council in thanking elected leaders, City staff and residents. "I really appreciate the opportunity you gave me those few years ago and I think we've accomplished a lot together."
Browne arrived in Alamo Heights after a six-year stint as city manager in neighboring Terrell Hills, his first city managerial job.
When he came to Alamo Heights, Browne, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, he had to navigate politically troubled waters.
Residents had been debating whether to replace their longtime municipal complex, once housed in the city's fire station, with a more spacious facility.
A new city hall proved a controversial issue. Voters in 2009 rejected a $10 million bond issue to pay for a new municipal complex.
City officials and residents worked together to downsize the city hall plan and come up with a design and price tag more amenable to the community.
The result was a successful $6.3 million bond election in 2011. The new 26,400-square-foot municipal complex and fire station opened on Broadway in February 2015.
Browne also oversaw another contentious issue – debate around a multistory mixed-use development now under construction at Broadway and Austin Highway.
Browne, Rosenthal and other officials agreed Monday that guiding Alamo Heights through those tumultuous times, particularly the city hall debate, was a hallmark of Browne's work with the City.
Browne's Alamo Heights tenure also has included a revamp of the City's development codes and commercial signage guidelines – measures meant to better accommodate redevelopment that's approaching from the San Antonio portions of the Broadway corridor.
Reading the certificate of appreciation, Rosenthal said Browne "successfully led planning efforts for an attractive Alamo Heights City Hall, delivered effective, efficient services, supported staff, and built an excellent rapport with the City Council and residents, leading by example."
Councilman John Savage recalled being initially surprised that Browne would want to come from a neighboring town to manage Alamo Heights in 2011 when Alamo Heights was undergoing political strife.
"I thought we had to get someone from far away," Savage said. "But he had a calm, steady leadership that got us through a lot of scrapes."
Councilman Lawson Jessee, elected to the Council in 2015 at age 27, said Browne's wisdom and guidance helped him ease into his role as a city leader.
"I think you've done an amazing job," he added.
"I think it turned out well," Browne responded about the City Hall complex. "It'll be great community asset for many generations."
Serving as chief administrator in Schertz looks to be Browne's biggest challenge in his civilian career. While Alamo Heights is landlocked, with a population of more than 8,400, Schertz has 41,000 people.
Schertz's population keeps growing thanks to continued residential and commercial development near Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. Browne had served as plans and resources director for the recruiting service at Randolph while in the Air Force.
Browne will assume his new role in Schertz on Jan. 2 with an annual base salary of $180,000. He has been working with a total budgeted compensation of $178,351, which includes base salary, allowances and certification pay.
Schertz Mayor Michael Carpenter, in a news release, said Browne's civilian work, military experience, and educational background – a doctorate in public administration from the University of Alabama – will serve him well in his city.
“He will bring the right skills to the table that will help us to continue to be a successful, vibrant and relevant city into the foreseeable future,” Carpenter added.
Browne said the Schertz city manager post was an opportunity he could not pass up.
Alamo Heights is posting its city manager opening through outlets such as the Texas Municipal League website. Rosenthal has said he would like to see the Council choose Browne's successor by the end of January.
Alamo Heights businessman Richard Peacock told the Rivard Report he is sorry to see Browne leaving for another city.
The owner of popular restaurant Paloma Blanca, Peacock shared the sentiment that Alamo Heights has benefited from Browne's skills and professionalism.
"He's been even-handed, practical, and fair-minded," Peacock said of Browne. "I think the world of him."
As for the next city manager, Peacock said he'd like to see someone with talents and approach similar to Browne's, including "transparency, fair-mindedness and real practicality."