A.C. Gonzalez Came One Vote From NOT Being City Manager

So what's next for Gonzalez? For starters, get Mary Suhm out of the building.

A.C. Gonzalez
A.C. Gonzalez

As I said on Twitter yesterday morning and the DMN then double-secret confirmed, our new city manager, A.C. Gonzalez, had the necessary votes locked up 24 hours ago. But that doesn’t mean this was a done deal. In fact, 48 hours ago, anti-A.C. forces on the Council only needed one more vote to hire Oakland city administrator Deanna Santana. Here’s how the arm-twisting shook out, according to five on-background sources I kept in contact with as the drama played out over the weekend.

Late Friday evening, it had become clear that Gonzalez had enough votes to be named city manager. This deeply distressed not only several council members who wanted to send a “times they are a-changin’” message to their constituents, but also Mayor Mike Rawlings. He has grown increasingly concerned that city staff doesn’t always level with him or the Council — all together now, A-DUH — and he wanted a change agent.

That’s when the vote brokering began. Whichever candidate could get a hard eight votes was going to win by a landslide, because no one was going to anger the new city manager right away by voting against him or her. There were several fence-sitters, folks who would be willing to side with Rawlings on Santana provided the mayor had enough votes. This included District 2’s Adam Medrano, interesting because the four black council members (they are fine with things running as they always have) had already warned Medrano that he had better side with them in backing Gonzalez, lest there be political repercussions.

Once you added up the anti-A.C. council members and the fence-sitters, by Sunday morning you had seven votes for Santana. One more was all that was needed. But whom to target, and what would get that person to change his or her vote? Obviously, the mayor could have tried to change Sheffie Kadane’s vote, but no one has yet figured what planet he is from, much less what his people desire. The other target would be Jerry Allen.

This would be problematic. You see, Allen is still furious at the mayor over the way he was yanked off the police-fire pension review board. (And it was mishandled, even if you think it was the right move.) So the only possible way he might have changed his vote is if he was given his seat back on that board — he gets what he wants, and Rawlings looks like he had to cave.

Well, as one person close to the mayor said to me, “Mike was never going to do that. He’s not political. He wants to do the right thing the right way.” And, yes, assuming Allen would have played ball — there’s no way to know now — that would have been a very political move, inserting someone back on the review board who was its leading anti-Nasher voice. That offer never came.

So what did Mayor Mike do to try to get that last vote? That’s the sticky part. No one is quite sure. Maybe he begged. Maybe he pleaded. Maybe he cajoled. It’s doubtful he put the screws to anyone. Rawlings is not considered the best — how to put this delicately? — organizational strategist. All that’s known is that, as I tweeted Monday morning, by Sunday he’d given up the fight, and Gonzalez had the votes. Rawlings said he would do his best to work with Gonzalez, the fence-sitters swung back to A.C., and even those who were adamant that this was the wrong move realized there was no value in falling on their swords.

What now? As one Dallas politico said to me on Sunday, “Here’s the thing: I like A.C. a lot.” So do many people. He did a lot of Mary Suhm’s dirty work when he worked for her, and everyone thinks he can easily handle the Xs and Os of the job.

But as one longtime insider told me, “A.C. does not have the political instincts that Mary has.” This person suggested he hire someone with said instincts. Me, I don’t know. Another shadow mayor is not really what I want out of the city manager.

That does bring up an important point: Mary Suhm needs to get the hell out of the building. Why is she still there, on charter review committees and roaming the halls? Have you ever worked somewhere where the old boss is still hovering over your shoulder? It’s impossible.

In the meantime, the Council will do its best to work with Gonzalez, and he will make cosmetic changes to the way business is done at City Hall, because when you’ve got the votes, you don’t really need to change, right?


  • Triple7

    Good reporting, Eric.

    The only pro-AC vote that has me scratching my head is Councilor Sandy Greyson of Dist. 12. On one hand, Mr. Gonzalez lives in Ms. Greyson’s district and I understand he is a good Do-Bee for Greyson. On the other hand, Greyson is dissatisfied with 1500 Marilla’s opacity and love of guady civic projects.

    I don’t understand her vote unless it’s all about the relationship.

  • In the know

    As someone who told the Mayor long ago that some of the staff was lying to him I am surprised it took him so
    long to figure it out. Hopefully that will change under the new manager. It would have taken an outsider a year or more to learn where the restrooms are at city hall much less begin to figure out what needed to be changed and who was needed to change it. I agree that tripping over the last city manager in the hall everyday would also be a problem. The external candidates were weak and I would be surprised if any really strong candidate would have wanted to work with this mayor and council.

  • Wick Allison

    Mary Suhm is in Asia as we speak and has been for two weeks. But to the point: why wouldn’t you want the former City Manager on hand during the interregnum? It’s not as if in the time between when she resigned and when the new city manager was confirmed (today) the city government came to a screeching halt. Suhm is wise enough and politically astute enough to know where she can be useful and where to keep her opinions to herself. After all, she is the one who resigned. If she secretly wanted the job, she would have kept it. In fact, Eric, I don’t understand your animus toward Suhm. To my initial surprise, she turned out to be one of the best city managers in recent history.

    • Eric Celeste

      Check your March issue for answers to all your questions.

    • Marc McCord

      Mary Suhm was a deceitful, criminal fraud who should be in a federal prison for her backroom dealings. Anybody who praises Suhm loses all credibility the instant that praise is given. The ONLY reason she and Tom Perkins resigned was the keep from being fired after the truth came out about the lies they told to the Mayor and City Council while secretly trying to bring Trinity East into our parks through the back door.

    • Mr. Greenville

      Wick – I don’t know if you are trolling or not (probably), but your POV on Mary shows a tone deafness to people who observe how 1500 Marilla makes business decisions.

  • Tim Rogers

    You know how you can tell you just got schooled, Eric? Because Wick used the word “interregnum.” Pow!

  • Wylie H Dallas

    That does bring up an important point: Mary Suhm needs to get the hell out of the building. Why is she still there, on charter review committees and roaming the halls? Have you ever worked somewhere where the old boss is still hovering over your shoulder? It’s impossible.]

    Her personal bio page is still up on the Dallas City Hall website, listing her as City Manager… spooky.


    The quote at the bottom of that page is classic Mary Suhm: “NOTE: This 360-word biographical sketch can be read in its entirety to introduce the city manager.” Remember…. “in its ENTIRETY”… lol….

  • Cristina Daglas

    About that old boss being in the building thing? It’s possible.

  • Tim Rogers

    Was wondering who’d be the first to catch that joke. Thanks, boss.

  • Marc McCord

    I, for one, am appalled at the lack of integrity and character of every member of the City Council who, for whatever reason, voted for A.C. Gonzales to become the City Manager. Instead of standing on principle they all ducked for cover and played the political game of putting their own political careers ahead of the best interest of citizens they represent. When they come up for re-election we need to replace EVERY member of the City Council! We need City Council members who have integrity, and apparently we have none of those now.

    • Mr. Greenville

      Absolutists like yourself rarely understand how politics actually work. But I like your idealism.

  • Marc McCord

    I fully understand how politics actually “work”, but I really hate cowardice of people who place the importance of keeping a political job (especially one that pays as little as being on the Dallas City Council) ahead of doing what is right. A.C. Gonzales was a direct participant in the Mary Suhm/Tom Perkins fraud involving Trinity East and the lies that were told to Mayors and City Councils over a period of 5+ years.

    Supporting A.C. Gonzales just because he was going to get the vote anyway is a coward’s act at a time when we need leadership and brave, honest, open government the most. And, on that point I am definitely an “absolutist!”

  • Wylie H Dallas

    It’s not that. Mary Suhm was well known for her tendency to “punish” districts represented by leaders who called her out on her shenanigans. Once the die was cast, any Council Member who dared vote in opposition when it came time to the official vote would have placed his or her constituents at risk of enduring degraded city services, the provision of which is now entirely within Gonzalez’ control.

  • Mr. Greenville

    Correct-a-mundo, Wylie. Back to my point, Mr. McCord, you are not familiar with how poilitics work in the City of Dallas.