Officials Opine on New City Manager’s Role

Dallas City Hall | Image by dszc/Getty Images

Some Dallas City Council members appear to agree with Mayor Eric Johnson’s assertion that the next city manager must be an effective communicator.

“You need a CEO,” Council Member Paula Blackmon (District 9) said at a recent meeting, per the Dallas Observer. “You need a manager. You need somebody who executes. I’m not saying [outgoing City Manager T.C. Broadnax] didn’t do it. I’m just saying I think us as a council maybe didn’t give him clear direction on where to go.”

Blackmon was among three council members — alongside Gay Donnell Willis (District 13) and Chad West (District 1) — who offered their opinions about how Broadnax’s permanent successor should work with the council.

“As a council member, I had to initiate the phone call when things were going off the rails versus hearing from [the city manager],” Willis 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.”

The Dallas Express reported on February 28, a week after Broadnax announced he would be resigning, that Johnson included five qualities council members should seek during their search for a city manager in a newsletter: responsible stewardship, a focus on basic services, personal responsibility, a commitment to public safety, and strong communication. The City’s poor communication was highlighted by The Dallas Express last week with regards to Deputy City Manager Kimberly Tolbert’s recent, potentially unlawful, blocking of the news outlet on X.

City officials did not respond to requests for comment about the matter.

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

West told the Dallas Observer the next city manager should start their work in one area.

“I think that they should come in and identify what departments have performed well, and which ones have had consistent challenges,” he said. “I can pretty much tell you where we have challenges and where we don’t, and I think it should be pretty evident to whomever comes in, as well.”

West, Willis, and Blackmon are part of the group of eight council members who asked Broadnax to resign between February 14 and February 21, triggering a provision in his contract allowing him to receive a severance payout at least equal to his annual salary of just over $423,000.

In Austin, where he is set to start his first day as city manager on May 6, Broadnax will receive a starting annual salary of $470,017.60, plus a $1,620.32 annual cellphone allowance, a $7,000 yearly executive allowance, and a $5,000-per-month housing allowance for up to six months.

Tolbert will become interim city manager when Broadnax leaves the City of Dallas.

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