Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Edward Benavides, who led the Tricentennial Commission for two years before stepping down amid controversy, resigned from the City of San Antonio "in lieu of reassignment," City Manager Sheryl Sculley wrote in a memo to City Council and the mayor Friday afternoon.
Although the Tricentennial co-chairs had originally planned to hire another executive director for the remainder of 2018, San Antonio's 300th anniversary, they "have expressed a desire for [Assistant City Manager] Carlos Contreras to continue to serve as the permanent Executive Director," Sculley wrote. The commission will vote on Contreras' appointment during its meeting Jan. 24.
Contreras has served as interim executive director since Benavides left in November 2017. Meanwhile, Benavides has been on vacation, according to City staff, using time off he has accrued during his 17 years with the City. His annual salary had been $167,000.
"As a part of his separation agreement, [Benavides] will remain available until March as a resource to Carlos for questions that arise regarding the planning and execution of the Tricentennial events occurring during Commemorative Week," stated Sculley.
Several Tricentennial board members have praised Contreras for his work on getting the year's celebrations back on track, but none as enthusiastically as co-chair Dr. Alfonso Chiscano. Chiscano told the commission during its last meeting that it should consider making Contreras' appointment permanent.
"Not many cities in the U.S. can claim 300 years of existence. I am honored to continue to be a part of the Tricentennial effort and am excited about the many wonderful historical, cultural, and educational events that have been specifically planned for this important year," Contreras said in a text to the Rivard Report. "These events will spotlight our wonderful community's past and our bright future in a way that will make us all proud."
Finding an experienced professional to lead an organization for less than one year would likely prove challenging, Contreras said in December, but at the time, he seemed confident someone could be found.
“I think we’ve got a lot of great things happening in 2018 for the Tricentennial, but I also have a lot of good projects at the City that I have been working on," he said then. "But I committed to stay [at the Tricentennial] as long as I needed to, so that’s where we are today.”
In addition to leading the Tricentennial Commission, Contreras will maintain some of his responsibilities as assistant city manager, Sculley wrote, such as oversight of the Aviation Department – including the new Airport System Development Committee and ongoing Airport Master Plan – and the Convention and Sports Facilities Department, which is looking for a new executive director, too.
Contreras had been paid just under $210,000, according to The Texas Tribune's database of government salaries. He will not receive a raise as Tricentennial Commission executive director, according to a City spokesperson.
Click here to download Sculley's memo.