During a six-hour period split between Tuesday and Wednesday, further details regarding the search for the city manager were discussed by the city’s management team, the mayor, members of city council and members of the audience at a workshop at the Laredo Public Works Department.

Friday was the last day for acting city manager Samuel Keith Selman after announcing his resignation. He followed a 30-day period of continuing his work as city manager, but he indicated that his departure was due to personal reasons.

The workshop was led by Doug Thomas, executive vice president of strategic government resources for a local government executive search firm. He said they were asked to speak to elected officials about factors affecting the quality of candidates throughout the search for the city manager over the two days.

“Your candidates will be watching you, watching your meetings and making your assessment, and how you operate as an organization, both publicly and privately, will have a direct bearing on the quality of candidates who apply for you,” he said. said Thomas. , emphasizing that this will be a critical factor when searching.

Thomas said recognizing a culture within city government and how the organization deals with conflict and differences of opinion is important to council and how the city manager runs the city.

“This type of issue is not a healthy government organization at the board level and is certainly not healthy at the administration level,” he said, asking the board if this type of behavior was tolerated, accepted or encouraged, or whether it was denied.

The search for a city manager was launched at the city council meeting on Monday, despite some aversion to choosing the next person for the role before a new council and mayor takes over after that November election.

Thomas revealed that he attended the meeting in secret and highlighted the point of a potential increase in solid waste. As the rate hike would affect different areas of the city — including downtown’s need for different trash pickup, similar to his time as city manager in a Florida town — he pointed out that a conversation was needed between council members and the city manager. to find an amicable solution.

Ultimately, he said, as a city manager, a solution and options can be presented, but the conversation between council members as a whole can impact a certain district, but the council cannot close to differing opinions or options.

During the presentation, Thomas questioned whether the council is functioning well as a governing body. He said he received comments from five people. The responses touched on several points across the city. They were:

  • We have definitely improved over time but there is still work to be done.
  • We need to stop micromanaging the City Manager, interfering with staff operations and creating mistrust among employees.
  • Unfortunately, there is still a lack of trust and fractured relationships within the board that need to be resolved so that we can be more collaborative as a group.
  • We need to be less territorial/district focused and more city-wide focused.
  • We set goals and desired outcomes, but do not set expectations for accountability in monitoring and/or achieving them.
  • We stray too far from our goals and constantly change direction and priorities through resolutions.

Council member Ruben Gutierrez responded to public remarks at the workshop by saying there was nothing wrong with starting research early, as the research process can take a year or a year and a half. However, he added that they were looking to hire the right person for the job.

“We all want the best for the city, every one of us (wants it). That’s why we ran,” he said.

After Gutierrez, board member Alberto Torres clarified his position on a topic discussed at Monday’s meeting.

He told the meeting that the subject of the arrival of a new city manager and the removal of the current management team should not be expected or suggested. He said the new city manager may need the current interim management team to gain a foothold in the city before appointing his own team.

“Overall, this board should refrain from making comments like that which will already start to put that seed in anyone who postulates, ‘I already have to go and clean up the management team, otherwise I’m not going to have a number of council members and/or the mayor happy,” Torres said.

Saenz countered that believing a new city manager can’t work without the current team or adapt to ongoing projects with a whole new hand-selected team implies he lacks the ability to assess the circumstances of the city.

Between the two ideas, the goal is to let the new city manager lead the city without the need to retain or completely remove the current city management team.

“Let the city manager manage,” Saenz said.

Additionally, as invited by Saenz during the July 18 city council meeting, residents and candidates for elected office were invited to attend and provide input into the city manager search. Laredo College board member Jackie Ramos said they were in a similar situation when looking for a president and added that they used an executive search firm.

She added that there are pros and cons to choosing a city manager immediately, but a city manager is a leader because the council needs guidance. She said a member of council establishes the legacy they plan to leave behind, and that is helped by choosing the right city manager to provide support.