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Ron Burton elevated to interim city manager; PA hires professional search firm

Port Arthur city councilmembers Monday elevated Assistant City Manager Ron Burton to the position of interim city manager before authorizing another search to find a full-time replacement for the top non-elected job in the city.

In the interim role, Burton will replace Rebecca Underhill, who will retire Friday.

Burton, 55, joined the city of Port Arthur professional staff in 2008, when he served first as assistant director of planning and community development until 2010, then gained promotion as director of development services. He still holds that position in addition to assuming duties first as acting assistant city manager, then assistant city manager in charge of operations in December 2017. He served as acting city manager in the absence of the city manager from 2012 to 2014.

Burton earned his undergraduate degree in community and regional planning and a master’s in economic development from the University of Southern Mississippi. He has earned numerous certificates in management, tourism planning, environmental planning, land development and qualitative research methods.

He was also director of planning and community development at Moultrie, Georgia, and community development planner for the city of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

“It is very humbling,” Burton told councilmembers after their unanimous vote. “I will continue to provide efficient leadership that the city needs in order for us to function.”

Councilwoman Charlotte Moses said the search would likely take 60-90 days or more. She said Burton may designate an assistant city manager, in that there is no longer anyone serving in that role.

Councilmembers also voted to authorize Burton in his new position to enter into a contract with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, an international consulting firm with an office near Dallas to conduct a professional search for a permanent city manager. The contract will call for Port Arthur to pay the search firm $24,500.

The city has been without a permanent city manager since November 2017 when former city manager Brian McDougal stepped down. Harvey Robinson was pressed into the interim role from December 2017 until March 2019, when Underhill replaced him.

The City Council’s effort at an in-house search for McDougal’s replace ended in March with no replacement named. Councilmembers interviewed four finalists for the position, but could not muster a majority of votes for any of the candidates.