City manager swap seen as positive

Published 8:40 pm Friday, July 11, 2008

By Amy Moore

The News staff writer

As two cities iron out the kinks in a plan that could have them sharing a city manager, current and former city officials look at the situation as a positive step forward.

D. Sosa, city manager of Groves, thinks the idea of Port Neches and Groves sharing Andre Wimer as a city manager is “difficult, but not impossible.”

“There are no three cities that work better together than Port Neches, Nederland and Groves,” Sosa said. “It would be difficult, but not impossible to work because of the long standing cooperation between the three cities. A lot of things we already do together so if it had a chance to work, it would work here.”

Wimer worked for Nederland as its city manager for 13 years before leaving to take the same position in Port Neches, a role he took only a few months ago. Sosa, too, worked for Nederland as the city manager from 1988 to 1994 before taking the position in Groves. The two men often lunch with Randy Kimler, the retired city manager of Port Neches, who Wimer was hired to replace.

“During those lunches we share a lot and I always learn something from them,” Sosa said of his friends’ intelligence. “I just hope they don’t offer Andre my job,” he joked.

Kimler agreed that the sharing of a city manager would be a time efficient and cost saving measure for both cities.

“I think it’s a good idea to explore. It would be like (managing) a city of 30,000,” he said. “Of course there would be details to work out but it’s not too much for one person – the cities have a lot in common.”

Considering salaries and benefits, city managers are a major expenditure for cities, Kimler said. Sharing a city manager would allow Port Neches and Nederland to split the cost and save them both money in the long run.

This is something Malcolm Lightfoot of Port Neches sees as the only way to function in Mid-County.

“I’m not a native of the area, but I’ve lived here for almost 30 years,” the retired Nederland fire fighter said via telephone Friday. “I see life in the big city versus here and we’re wasting money. I see the trees instead of the whole forest.”

Lightfoot said he has been an advocate of consolidation of city services in Mid-County for the past 20 years. He hopes the sharing of a city manager will be the first step of many in combing more than just two job duties.

“There is no need for triplication of all services in an area this size. There is also no need for three City Managers, three Police Chiefs, three Fire Chiefs, three Directors of Public Works and so on,” he wrote in an email to The News. “If you will but look, these department heads are among the highest paid employees in the area. One of each should be able to manage the combined departments.”

Lightfoot worries that if the three cities do not combine services and cut citizen paid fees, “they’re going to run people out and make this a ghost town.”

“There is really no reason why this consolidation would not work to upgrade all services while lowering costs to all citizens,” he wrote.

Both Port Neches and Nederland, however, adamantly stated in a press release that by sharing a city manager, they will not be combining the two cities.

“Both communities would remain as separate, independent cities that would simply utilize a single City Manager to oversee operations,” the press release states. “The on-going cooperative efforts to save tax dollars and minimize the tax burden on our citizens would continue and potentially be enhanced by this proposal.”

Kimler said the situation was an opportunity for the cities to not be stifled and have a chance to explore new things.

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