Dallas Seeks Residents’ Input on Next City Manager

Survey on cellphone | Image by Chainarong Prasertthai/Getty Images
Survey on cellphone | Image by Chainarong Prasertthai/Getty Images

Dallas residents have been asked to complete a multipart survey to provide feedback on the qualifications, characteristics, and opportunities for their next city manager.

“Residents are asked to participate through two options: (1) a statistically valid survey through ETC Institute and (2) a general questionnaire through Zencity,” according to a news release.

“The ETC Institute survey and its administration are standardized, and the results are statistically significant with a limit of 100 responses for each City Council district. Randomly selected residents will be invited to participate in the survey by mail, phone, or online survey in English and Spanish.”

Open to Dallas residents and to people who work in Dallas, the Zencity survey contains a mix of single-selection, multiple-selection, and short-answer questions.

The first six are as follows:

  • Which professional qualifications are most important for the next City Manager?
  • Which personal characteristics are most important for the next City Manager?
  • What challenges and opportunities are most critical for the City Manager to be able to address?
  • What do you see as the most critical challenge that Dallas will face over the next 5 to 10 years?
  • Which of the following categories is most important when evaluating the new City Manager?
  • What is the most important thing a new City Manager should know about the City of Dallas?

The next 13 parts to the survey aren’t questions but attributes and behaviors falling under the categories of “vision & direction,” “building trust & unity,” “management & accountability,” “communication & transparency,” and “fortitude & resiliency” that participants are asked to rank as “very important,” “important,” “somewhat important,” “less important,” “not at all important,” or “I don’t know.”

The list of “values and principles” participants are asked to rate according to importance is below.

  • Vision & Direction: Sets clear goals and has a compelling vision for the city’s future.
  • Vision & Direction: Makes well-informed decisions, even when faced with complex challenges.
  • Building Trust & Unity: Brings people together and fosters collaboration across diverse groups.
  • Building Trust & Unity: Demonstrates strong ethical principles and leads with integrity.
  • Management & Accountability: Has a proven track record of successful budgeting and managing finances.
  • Management & Accountability: Holds staff accountable for performance and results.
  • Management & Accountability: Effectively delegates tasks while ensuring clear direction and follow-through.
  • Communication & Transparency: Clearly explains complex issues to the public in an open and honest manner.
  • Communication & Transparency: Regularly communicates city updates and welcomes resident feedback.
  • Communication & Transparency: Actively listens to and addresses citizen concerns.
  • Fortitude & Resilience: Remains calm and decisive under pressure.
  • Fortitude & Resilience: Stands firm for what’s right, even in the face of opposition.
  • Fortitude & Resilience: Adapts and innovates in response to changing circumstances.

The final survey question simply asks participants to provide other feedback they believe is useful in the search for a new city manager:

  • What other information should the City Manager Search Committee consider when seeking a new City Manager for the City of Dallas?

Several city stakeholders have already offered their two cents on what a city manager should be.

Louis Darrouzet, CEO of the Metroplex Civic & Business Association, told The Dallas Express on Monday that Dallas needs “a strong city manager who can get this house in order — one who can get the City in a place so efficient they can do projects they want to get done because they already have the money.”

His comments came two days after residents approved a $1.2 billion bond package.

“Crime and homelessness are out of control, and companies are leaving Dallas and relocating to Plano, Frisco, and Prosper,” he said. “They are literally wasting money all over the place on all of these pet projects, and it’s irresponsible.”

Darrouzet also said in a statement to DX in February that the next city manager “is focused on core City services.”

“We would like to see the City get back to meeting the core needs of the city and cut back on peripheral spending.”

Some Dallas City Council members appeared to agree, The Dallas Express reported.

“As a council member, I had to initiate the phone call when things were going off the rails versus hearing from [the city manager],” Gay Donnell Willis (District 13) said, according to the Dallas Observer. “I would also want someone who could think really big and know who to bring to the table, who in the region to convene, to help get ahead of, or better understand where we’re going with our sense of public safety, and our workforce and economic mobility.”

Paula Blackmon (District 9) said Dallas needs a city manager “who executes,” according to the Dallas Observer.

“I’m not saying [former City Manager T.C. Broadnax] didn’t do it,” she said. “I’m just saying I think us as a council maybe didn’t give him clear direction on where to go.”

A week after Broadnax resigned, Mayor Eric Johnson included in his February newsletter five qualities council members should seek during their search for a city manager — responsible stewardship, a focus on basic services, personal responsibility, a commitment to public safety, and strong communication.

“The next city manager must know how to communicate with the city council, Dallas employees, and the people they serve,” Johnson said in the newsletter.

“When important questions are asked of the city manager, the answers should be clear and unmistakable. Obfuscation and condescension from the city manager can create major problems. On this note, the city manager must also act in good faith and treat residents, business leaders, community leaders, City Councilmembers, and city employees with respect.”

The Dallas Express reported in March that interviews with prospective search firms were scheduled for April 29 through May 10 after a subcommittee evaluated proposals between April 15 and April 26. The next step in the process is negotiating a contract with the selected firm.

Finding a new city manager to succeed Broadnax — now Austin’s city manager — could take several months to a year. Kimberly Tolbert became interim city manager on May 2, The Dallas Express reported.

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