The five finalists are in for Dallas' open city manager's gig and, surprisingly, people on both sides of city hall's political spectrum seem pretty happy with the choices.
Among the five are four municipal employees — one of whom is a city of Dallas employee — and one corporate executive. Each of the candidates will be put through their paces next week at a series of small-group interviews with council members, a public meet-and-greet and formal interviews with the full city council. The council will discuss the candidates and decide how to move forward on Dec. 9.
The candidates (you can check out their resumes here) are T.C. Broadnax, currently city manager in Tacoma, Washington; Jelynne LeBlanc-Burley, the president and CEO of the JLB Group; Maura Black Sullivan, the Chief Operating Officer of the City of Chattanooga; Mark McDaniel, a Dallas assistant city manager; and Jim Twombly, the city manager for Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“We had more than 100 people apply for the job of Dallas city manager and I believe we have selected highly qualified individuals to come interview with the City Council,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said Tuesday. “We look forward to getting to know them better next week.”
As the Observer's Jim Schutze pointed out in his column Monday, the city manager's job is the most important in Dallas. The mayor, despite having the bully pulpit, effectively remains the city council's single at-large member, stuck with just one vote. It's outgoing city manager A.C. Gonzalez who's been tasked with attacking the city's biggest problems, whether it's the police and fire pension system that is threatening the city with bankruptcy or Dallas' ongoing problems with loose dogs.
Those generally opposed to the mayor on the council, a group led by Council member Philip Kingston and North Oak Cliff representative Scott Griggs, believed that Gonzalez wasn't up to the task of running the city and became increasingly critical of the city manager. The pair argue that an outside candidate is needed following three years of Gonzalez, who'd spent 15 years as an assistant city manager, and eight years of Mary Suhm, who retired from the city in 2014 following 36 years at City Hall.
Despite being initially critical of the search process, Kingston expressed optimism Monday about the candidates after a closed-door briefing at City Hall, telling reporters that they looked supremely qualified, "on paper, anyway."
The fight over Gonzalez' replacement — which will get ugly, especially if the mayor pushes to hire McDaniel — will begin after the pleasantries next week.