Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Several familiar, anticipated names were among the 31 people who applied to be San Antonio’s next city manager, including Erik Walsh, Peter Zanoni, Lori Houston, Carlos Contreras, Maria Villagomez, and Rod Sanchez – all members of retiring City Manager Sheryl Sculley’s executive leadership team hired by her.
Also among the applicants whose names the City released Friday were out-of-town candidates who currently serve as assistant or deputy city managers from big cities such as Dallas and Las Vegas. Click here to download the full list. Also applying was one international candidate: the city manager of Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada.
“The City of San Antonio is one of the best-managed cities in the country and is a great place to work,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “We’re pleased that we have gotten a diverse and qualified set of applications for the city manager position. I am confident that our next city manager is on this list, and I am eager to move forward with the process.”
The list includes 23 out-of-town applicants, even though the city did not launch an aggressive recruitment campaign or hire an executive search firm, instead relying on an internal recruiter. Interested parties had three weeks, amid winter holidays, to apply.
The applications will be reviewed by City Council members starting Monday. A shortlist of candidates Council wishes to interview is expected to emerge one week later, after members discuss the matter in a private, executive session. A public symposium with the finalist or finalists is expected to take place later this month, tentatively on Jan. 23, according to the City’s website. Council is expected to appoint the new city manager and approve a contract on Jan. 31.
It’s an ambitious timeline for the process – especially if outside candidates make the shortlist.
But Nirenberg is confident that Council will stick to the proposed timeline. “We remain on schedule for an anticipated selection of a new city manager by the end of January,” he said.
Sculley, 66, announced her retirement in late November, just weeks after voters approved a proposition that targeted her tenure and salary, although the measure did not impact her directly. She had been planning to retire for at least two years, she said at the time.
Under the new City Charter rules, total annual compensation of the next city manager cannot exceed 10 times that of the lowest-paid full-time City employee (about $312,000 using current wages) and a city manager can serve in that role no longer than eight years. A supermajority vote by Council – eight of 11 votes – also is required to approve the city manager’s contract. Sculley was paid a $475,000 salary in addition to other benefits last year but declined to accept an up to $100,000 performance bonus.
Nirenberg has hinted that hiring an internal candidate would be easier, but left the door open for bringing in a talented manager from elsewhere.
“If we do have an internal candidate selected as the next city manager, I would expect the transition would be much shorter,” Nirenberg said in December. “It’s not restricted to just internal candidates, but I would expect our most competitive applicants will be here in the city.”
Also on the list are several candidates that do not appear to have adequate experience to become the top executive of a municipal government that has a $2.8 billion annual budget and more than 13,000 employees. At least two applications were submitted by individuals who routinely run underfunded campaigns for political office.
Sculley, who is widely credited with professionalizing the City and bringing it gold-star bond ratings, has said that she will assist with the transition as needed, but will stay on no longer than June 30.