One day before the Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative Affairs members met to consider a timeline for finding City Manager T.C. Broadnax’s successor, Mayor Eric Johnson listed five qualities council members should seek when identifying a prospective candidate.

He prefaced that assessment by acknowledging that officials’ actions — perceived or real — in the lead-up to their appointment of Kimberly Tolbert as interim city manager on Tuesday may have caused harm to the process.

“The way things went down raises some questions,” Johnson wrote in his February 26 newsletter. “There are also some process issues to sort out about how to move forward. Hopefully, it will all be ironed out soon.”

Some council members shared similar concerns during Tuesday’s special meeting, but Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins (District 8) did not do the same.

“We want to make sure the public understands that we might not get along all the time, but we have worked together,” he said. “In the last four or five days, we have talked to each other constantly. You put us in this seat. It’s not no back-door politicking. Everybody was there [at Monday’s meeting]. Every council member had the opportunity to talk. Anybody thinking it’s a back-door deal, it was not a back-door deal.”

Texas law prohibits council members from deliberating city business of any kind outside of legally posted meetings if it creates a quorum, including via text messages, emails, social media postings, phone calls, and in-person meetings. However, the Texas Open Meetings Act does not prevent them from discussing city business with the city manager — as long as a quorum is not formed.

Under the council-manager form of government, the mayor chairs council meetings and maintains order and decorum. City managers are effectively the CEOs of their municipalities. In Dallas, Broadnax oversees a $4 billion budget and 13,000 employees and is responsible for hiring and firing department heads.

Broadnax’s scheduled last day with the City is June 3, when Tolbert, one of his two deputy city managers, will become interim city manager. Council members have said finding a permanent replacement for Broadnax could take several months to a year.

Johnson is pushing the council to act with intention throughout that timeline.

“It is vital that Dallas goes about this in the right way,” he wrote in the newsletter. “Everything should be done in a manner that inspires public confidence. And with the right team in place at Dallas City Hall in the years to come, this bustling city can become stronger, safer, and more vibrant. This means it is not too early to begin thinking about the qualities we should be looking for in a new city manager.”

The mayor listed concern for public safety, the “responsible stewardship” of taxpayers’ money, a focus on basic services, personal accountability, and good communication skills as characteristics council members should seek in Broadnax’s successor.

Public safety is Job No.1 in city government,” he wrote. “Since the hiring of an experienced police chief who implemented an evidence-based violent crime reduction plan, Dallas has recorded three straight years of year-over-year violent crime reductions. This is no time to be complacent.”

Johnson is partly correct. As The Dallas Express has reported, while violent crime has decreased overall during the last of years, robberies and murders remain high.

“The next city manager should be able to demonstrate a clear commitment to fighting violent crime and keeping Dallas neighborhoods safe,” he expounded. “This person will need to be able to collaborate with the police chief (and also allow the law enforcement professionals to do their jobs), find additional solutions that do not depend entirely on law enforcement, and support the changing needs of firefighters and paramedics.

Boasting his record of cutting the property tax rate by more than 4 cents during his five years as mayor, Johnson said that Dallas residents are paying the lowest rate since 2007.

“Taxpayers deserve responsible stewardship of their money, and this city must be in a position to compete for residents and businesses in this fast-growing region. The next city manager should work with this Administration to prioritize the taxpayers’ interests by leading a process to identify ways to save taxpayers money and cut unnecessary government spending.”

A focus on basic services ranked third on Johnson’s list of preferred qualities.

“The next city manager should be a skilled executive, but he or she should not be expected to come in with a policy agenda,” he wrote. “That also means the new city manager should not come in with a bunch of plans to focus on personal pet projects. The policymaking should be left to the policymakers — the city’s elected representatives. The city manager’s job is to operationalize these policies and bring them to life.”

Specifically, Johnson said, the next city manager should focus on “good government that works.”

The basics must take precedence. Traffic signals should function correctly. Potholes should be filled. Permits should be issued in a timely manner. Trash should be picked up on schedule. 911 calls need to be answered quickly. Confidential data belonging to city employees and the public should be protected. Code Compliance should be well-run. This is the city manager’s job — not politicking, policymaking, or podcasting.”

And while “mistakes will happen,” Johnson said Dallas is too big of an “organization” to mishandle.

“But when problems do inevitably arise, the next city manager must be forthcoming about them. Then this person must take responsibility, work to correct the issues, and share plans to move forward effectively. There should be no passing the buck. It’s not enough to say a problem is a collective failure, shrug your shoulders, and effectively tell taxpayers, ‘oh well.'”

Accountability isn’t enough, Johnson said. The next city manager must know how to communicate with the city council, Dallas employees, and the people they serve.

“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.”