Hispanic enough

Dallas' new city manager steps from Mr. Inside to role model

"But the fact that he grew up in a predominantly Hispanic community and went to a Hispanic community college makes a difference."

Benavides grew up in Corpus Christi, where he attended Del Mar College, a mainly Hispanic school with a good name nationally among Hispanic leaders. Benavides later earned a master's degree in public administration at Southern Methodist University.

He says that what counts on the ethnic front is where you grew up, who your parents were, who your friends were and are.

"I am Hispanic," Benavides says. "I grew up in Corpus Christi in a Hispanic neighborhood. I do speak Spanish. It's not good. But I plan to get better at it."

He doesn't have any trouble with the impression that he was always more or less an inside guy at City Hall when he was here, rather than a community guy. His gradual career progress from budget analyst to assistant city manager in Dallas was an inside trek through the ranks of bureaucracy.

"When I was in Dallas, I was kind of an insider," Benavides says. "I did have some contact with the community, and I do know most of the Hispanic leaders in Dallas. But I wasn't out there that much."

Now he will be. No matter what anyone says, the job of city manager is always intensely political and high-profile.

Asked the question Rick Leggio had posed--If the mayor calls the tune, what difference does Benavides make anyway?--Benavides gave a suitably political answer:

"I think if the city of Dallas is going to be successful, every council member needs to do a good job, and the city manager needs to do a good job. We need to be hitting on all cylinders if we want to be a great city."

It's not at all clear what that means, but, in terms of Benavides' ability to handle the political limelight, that may be a good thing.

Adelfa Callejo, who is the real maven of Mexican-American politics in Dallas, says having a city manager with a Spanish surname is an unmitigated very good thing, and for her it all has to do with the Mexican-American kids who will see him on television or in person.

"These children must be able to dream and imagine that they can achieve the highest positions," she said. "Having Ted as city manager is exactly the kind of role model you need."

For her money, she says Mayor Ron Kirk's decision to push Benavides as city manager is the best thing that has happened for the city in a long time.

"This act by Ron Kirk will do more to repair race relations between blacks and Hispanics in this city than anything else that has been said or done.

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