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Dallas’ Effort to Consider an Interim City Manager Stumbles Out of the Gate

The mayor and his colleagues have different views on the process to consider a temporary replacement for T.C. Broadnax.
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ddi luncheon
Then-Downtown Dallas CEO Kourtny Garrett interviews City Manager T.C. Broadnax at the Sheraton Dallas hotel on October 28, 2021. Broadnax announced Wednesday that he would resign his post, effective June 3. Tim Rogers

This story was first published on 2/22. It was most recently updated on 2/23 at 10:30 a.m. to reflect an additional city council committee meeting.

In the wake of City Manager T.C. Broadnax’s resignation announcement, a new conflict has apparently arisen between Mayor Eric Johnson and some of the City Council.

Just hours after six Council members drafted a news release Wednesday announcing Broadnax’s impending departure, members Jaime Resendez, Jaynie Schultz, and Adam Bazaldua filed a three-person memo requesting a special-called briefing on February 27 to consider appointing Deputy City Manager Kim Tolbert as interim city manager. 

On Thursday afternoon, Johnson fired off his own memo, saying, in part, that it is “important for us to work together to create a successful transition and determine a path forward.”

In the memo, he placed the search process in the hands of the Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative Affairs and added council members Paul Ridley and Kathy Stewart to the committee. Until Thursday, the committee consisted of three people: Tennell Atkins, Cara Mendelsohn, and Jesse Moreno.

The mayor also said he would not attend the February 27 meeting, arguing there’s “no need or reason to rush this process.” Since Broadnax’s resignation isn’t effective until June 3, discussions about search processes and interim city managers, he wrote, can be added to upcoming agendas. The Council’s next regular meeting is February 28.

Since Dallas has a weak mayor system, Johnson has little control over whether the Council opts to consider an interim city manager at next week’s special-called meeting. Aside from a handful of administrative duties and presiding over meetings and briefings, his powers are those of a 15th, at-large council member.

The agenda for February 27’s special-called meeting was posted late Thursday evening. The first order of business is a discussion about Broadnax’s resignation and a resolution to appoint Tolbert as interim city manager on his last day, June 3. The body will then discuss the search process for Broadnax’s permanent replacement.

Shortly after that agenda was posted, a meeting was scheduled for the now-expanded Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative Affairs.  The agenda for that meeting, which will be held on Monday, is roughly what Johnson outlined as the committee’s duties in his memo.

Should the mayor not attend the special called meeting next Tuesday, the City Council will have the opportunity to name an interim without the mayor present. If there is no consensus for Tolbert, they could move to defer the vote or table the matter.

Dallas is not the only Texas city on the hunt for a city manager, either. Austin and El Paso began their searches last year, and Austin recently extended the deadline to apply for the job. Dallas is the largest city in the state to embark on a city manager search.

The mayor is familiar with missing important votes. But at least a handful of his colleagues cited a poor working dynamic between Johnson and Broadnax as part of the impetus for the latter’s resignation. Now, there appears to be more confusion around who will lead the search for a replacement and how that will play out. Once again, as is reportedly par for the course regarding the interactions between Broadnax and Johnson, much of the conflicting communication is happening between memos.

Last night, Schultz indicated that the Council did not intend to rush anything. She called the search for Broadnax’s replacement “such an important and serious endeavor.” She said the discord between the mayor and Broadnax might not improve with someone else in the seat, but there were still good reasons that the job would attract many candidates.

“There’s never one reason that somebody at this caliber and this place in their career would leave, right? It’s myriad reasons,” she said. “Which means it’s going to be the same element for the next person that we hire. There will be myriad things that attract them, and if there are huge challenges with the mayor, at that point, you’re at two years.”

She said the city’s next chief executive will wait out the mayor, whose final term will be complete in 2027.  “We’re not going to hire someone who’s going to be there for only three years, or two years really, by the time they get hired. It’s a long process.”

The Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative Affairs will meet at 9 a.m. on February 26. The full Council will meet at 1 p.m. on February 27 and again at 9 a.m. on February 28. 

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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