Search for Lockhart city manager begins
By Miles Smith
Editor / POST-REGISTER
The Lockhart City Council voted Tuesday night to take the first step to finding the replacement for longtime City Manager Vance Rodgers, who announced his intentions to retire at the end of June last week.
The first step: securing a search firm that specializes in hiring local government leaders.
Council voted 5-2 to make an offer to Strategic Government Resources, a firm based in Keller that specializes in executive recruitment. Mayor Lew White said the city would work to obtain a contract from SGR for the council to review and approve as early as the meeting scheduled for Jan. 16.
SGR comes with an added bonus. If the firm is hired, the staffer responsible for steering the candidate search would be former San Marcos city manager Larry Gilley, an SGR senior vice president whose most recent stint at city manager lasted from 2002-14 in Abilene. Gilley left Abilene to join SGR.
“I like his familiarity with our area,” said At-Large City Councilmember Brad Westmoreland. “His past employer was San Marcos from 1987-2002. That has a lot of things going for it.”
The council interviewed Gilley on Monday night and Chris Hartung of Chris Hartung Consulting on Thursday night. Hartung, a former city manager himself, is a one-man operation.
Mayor Pro-Tem Angie Gonzales-Sanchez and District 1 Councilmember Juan Mendoza preferred Hartung for the job. They were the two councilmembers who voted against SGR.
“I was just more impressed with Hartung,” Gonzales-Sanchez said. “I thought, as a candidate, he had more of what we were looking for. But I would be OK with SGR.”
Added Mendoza, “I think his personal connections would help us go a long way.”
White, Westmoreland, John Castillo, Jeffry Michelson and Kara McGregor disagreed, although all noted that either candidate would have been a solid choice.
“We are very fortunate to be picking between two of the best in the state of Texas,” White said.
Both firms use a similar approach. They post the job. They screen the initial applicants with questionnaires, phone interviews and video interviews. They weed the candidate pool down to between three and six candidates, and, ultimately, bring those top candidates to the council for review. The council then has the option of bringing all the candidates in for a visit or setting up individual interview dates.
Potential costs of the potential agreement are unknown. White said he would release proposed costs once SGR representatives submitted a contract to the city.
Council also discussed how to go about paying for a potential 30-year water plan that would take effect before the city’s arrangement with Luling expires in 2030.
Council has heard presentations from the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and is eyeing a deal that could enable the city to utilize water from the Carrizo Springs Aquifer in the future. The GBRA has has acquired groundwater leases from 42,000 acres of land in Gonzales and Caldwell County and a permit of 15,000 acre feet for production and transport.
The GBRA is also developing a few regional projects that the city could participate in that could secure future water usage.
Rodgers said the city needed to begin paying for the project soon, suggesting that they raise rates proactively rather than waiting for the new agreement to begin.
Rate changes could go into affect as soon as Oct. 1, 2018.
The council is expected to further discuss the matter at its Jan. 16 meeting.