Austin City Council begins search for new city manager

Sarah Philips

Austin City Council began the months-long process of finding a new city manager this week by approving a solicitation for a search firm to find someone to run the day-to-day operations of city government.

Austin’s previous city manager, Marc Ott, left the position in September for a job with a government advocacy group in Washington D.C. Since then, Elaine Hart, the city’s chief financial officer, has been serving as interim city manager while the city goes through the lengthy process of finding Ott’s replacement.

“Obviously, they’re looking for somebody that represents the interests of the city,” said Jason Alexander, assistant to the city manager. “Austin is fast-growing, bound to double in the next 20 to 25 years, and a very prosperous business hub, so [City Council] is obviously looking for someone with experience in that.”

At a meeting on Tuesday, City Council members debated how they wanted the community to be involved in the process of finding a new manager.

“One of the most valuable purposes of this group would be to have community meetings and hear from the public about what are the most [important] criteria for the city manager,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, whose district includes West Campus. “So I want to be sure that we don’t wait so long that their process has to be so short as to be meaningless or not as useful as possible.”

According to Alexander, the new city manager will immediately deal with issues of mobility, depending on whether or not the mobility bond slated for Nov. 8 passes, and issues that accompany a rapidly growing city. Depending on how the timeline plays out, the new manager should be selected close to when the city budget passes.

“The manager could be coming in right after a new budget is passed,” Alexander said. “That’s an eye-opening experience in a big city like this to have to implement a new budget right away.”

According Joya Hayes, director of City of Austin’s Human Resources Department, human resources will not recommend anyone to City Council until December, after input from the public and a panel yet to be appointed by City Council.

“We would not be bringing recommendations until closer to the beginning of December to [City Council], providing us an opportunity to go through the process of evaluation,” Hayes said at the meeting.

The next regular meeting of the City Council is Nov. 3, less than a week before the mobility bond vote.