The applicants are in: Port Arthur receiving update this month on city manager search

Published 12:15 am Saturday, October 5, 2019

The search for a city manager for Port Arthur continues with a field of 19 applicants.

Now it’s up to Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, an international consulting firm with an office near Dallas, to review the applications, which is scheduled for Oct. 11. Trameka Williams, director of human resources, safety and risk with the city of Port Arthur, said the city should receive the first update report on Oct. 14.

Council will then look over the list and indicate which candidates they are interested in and the search firm will then perform an extensive background search before interviews are scheduled.

The search firm has an outline of the desired candidate, part of which includes education, experience, financially strong and ethical considerations.

Port Arthur District 4 Councilmember Harold Doucet Sr. said, in his opinion, he would like to see a city manager with good managerial skills that learns and knows the city’s policies and procedures and can be an enforcer of those.

“Being a good manager, managerial skills and a person who understands neutrality and not be swayed politically,” Doucet said. “Good city managers don’t play politics. Good city mangers do their job. I feel that has been our problem in the past.”

A person who has these qualities will turn the city around, many say.

Port Arthur District 3 Councilmember Thomas Kinlaw III said personally he would like to see a person with experience as a city manager. He is looking for a strong financial background, budget experience and experience in industrial agreement contracts.

“I hope the person we select has a strong management style of leadership,” Kinlaw said.

The city has a lot going on at this time with refinery expansions and Motiva purchasing property in the downtown area among other projects.

The ideal candidate would build his or her team and be a team player, work with city council and enforce policies.

But, Kinlaw said, he’s not talking about micromanagement.

“We want the best,” he said. “Port Arthur has been the black eye and we really want people to change that mindset.”

Port Arthur District 2 Councilmember Cal Jones said he wants honesty and accountability.

“Those are my hot buttons,” Jones said. “I want somebody to be up front, a good strong leader. That’s the key.”

According to the city’s website, the job offers a comprehensive total benefits package, which includes a base salary range of $177,694 to $203,256 depending on experience, $650 per month vehicle allowance, 100% paid health insurance, subsidy for dependent(s) available, $100 per month phone allowance, city-issued laptop or similar device, life insurance, deferred compensation contribution and more.

Baker Tilly previously stated it would set up approximately five face-to-face interviews to take place in Port Arthur.

The firm is also available to help in candidate negotiations and initiating a formal offer.

“We anticipate having someone, at least in principle and under some type of agreement, by November or December, hopefully to begin in December or January,” Edward Williams, of Baker Tilly, stressed to councilmembers in August.

Some background

Port Arthur has been without a permanent city manager — its highest ranking professional in city government, since November 2017 when then city manager Brian McDougal resigned shortly after Hurricane Harvey devastated the city.

Former assistant city manager Harvey Robinson came out of retirement and served for some time as interim city manager in what was supposed to be a six-month gig. It lasted about 16 months, then along came Becky Underhill. She had previously worked with the city for about 20 years, left, and then came back as assistant city manager. When Robinson left in March 2019, she was elevated to interim city manager.

Underhill retired in early August and Ron Burton, who held several titles in the city from assistant director of planning and community development to director of development services, was named interim city manager.

In addition, the city council attempted an in-house search for a full time city manager back in March that ended with no replacement — that’s when the city opted to hire the search firm for $24,500.