City Council: Professionals will complete manager hunt

Published 2:53 pm Thursday, June 6, 2019

Port Arthur City Councilmembers are pressing to completion an in-house city manager search that was initiated in late March.

Nine candidates applied for the position through that search before its April 17 application deadline; Mayor Derrick Freeman said the councilmembers opted Tuesday to hire a professional search firm to review those nine candidates’ applications and bring the search to a conclusion.

The City Council last December initiated a search for a permanent city manager to replace Harvey Robinson, who held the interim position for more than a year. Robinson had been hired to hold the interim job for six months.

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That December-to-March search ended without selection of a final candidate, as the councilmembers split their votes among three of the four search finalists, with no candidate claiming a majority of four votes. Councilmembers then decided to seek new candidates using a second in-house search with an April 17 deadline.

Days before that deadline, councilmembers elevated Assistant City Manager Becky Underhill, who had served under Robinson, to replace him as the interim. Robinson had left the position vacant and councilmembers felt the need to fill that office, if only with a temporary person. Freeman said she was a “solid interim.”

Underhill has more than 20 years in city management positions, and served as assistant city manager in League City, which has a population of more than 80,000.

“We’re just going to give what we have to a search firm,” Freeman said Thursday. The city will seek requests for qualifications, hire the firm and give them at least the nine applications to review.

“We’re going to let someone professional handle this,” he said, “and get it across the finish line.”

The city’s council-manager form of government places chief executive capacity in the city manager, a full-time professional who works daily with department heads and city staff as well as with councilmembers. The city manager oversees the city’s annual budget, developing and implementing personnel regulations and coordinating daily operations.

The city’s website says the city manager is responsible for 650 employees and an annual budget of more than $141 million.


See also: Council’s split decision: Port Arthur to vet 9 city manager applicants