Saturday, August 20, 2022 Aug 20, 2022
86° F Dallas, TX



Poor Starke Taylor. (We know you’re sick of the “who’s running for mayor” question, but bear with us spec-ulalion-junkies. February 18 is the filing deadline.) Anyway, Taylor really isn’t interested in running for another term as mayor, but events have conspired to force him to seriously consider doing exactly that. Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first and most obvious relates to City Manager Charles Anderson’s surprise move from City Hall over to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system as executive director. It’s a good hire for DART, since Anderson has proven with his City Hall service that he can handle the diverse interests and agendas of the elected and appointed officials who set policy; that’s exactly what DART has needed and hasn’t had during its brief life, so expectations are high that Anderson will succeed. That’s the view at City Hall, too. which after all has a stake in seeing DART succeed. But Anderson created a problem when he announced that he was taking along one of his top assistant city managers. Richard Knight, to handle the day-to-day internal DART operation. Knight’s departure-postponed when the council asked him to serve as interim city manager while a replacement for Anderson is found-leaves the city manager’s office with only two qualified professional managers, Deputy City Manager Camille Cates Barnett and Assistant City Manager Jim Reid; the two assistants who remain, Jan Hart and Sam Moreno, are competent, but neither is a product of the municipal management field (Hart is an accountant, Moreno a former businessman). Some council members don’t necessarily see that as a problem, but others definitely do, including some influential leaders in the business community. “The professionalism of the city manager’s office, which has always been strong, is at a modern low,” says one prominent leader in the business community. Taylor’s been hearing that sort of talk ever since the Anderson-Knight departures were announced, and a number of people are telling him that an experienced hand (meaning his) is needed at the tiller while the council decides on Anderson’s replacement and the new manager’s staff is put in place-and that could take some time. In other words, City Hall needs a leader. The other reason that Taylor is reconsidering his political plans has to do with reaction to those individuals whose names have surfaced as likely candidates. Annette Strauss hasn’t made a lot of headway in persuading key people that she’s not as soft and naive as she appears (“she’s very smart, but she’s not street-smart,” says one prominent elected official), and local Republican Party chairman Fred Meyer is a source of concern to others because of his unflinching partisanship. Former city councilman Lee Simpson has bowed out of the race (see below), and no one else of any real visibility has appeared on the scene as yet. Taylor has managed to win over many once-skeptical citizens with his obvious determination to be a “mayor for all the people.” and while there are certainly pockets of resistance, he probably enjoys more popularity in the community than any mayor since J. Erik Jonsson. He’s a known, stable quantity, in other words, and that’s important to many factions as Dallas moves further into an era of significant change. According to the latest scenario, Taylor will wait until the council selects the new city manager (before December 1, he hopes) before announcing his plans. A key consideration for Taylor is whether the new manager is someone already familiar with the local scene, or someone from outside the city. . ..

Another much-asked question on the political gossip circuit the last couple of months has been: what’s the real story behind Lee Simpson’s decision to not run for mayor? well. you won’t believe this, but the real story seems to be the very one that Simpson told when he announced his decision: his law firm’s business is flat-out booming, and he’s needed there. Simpson won’t vanish from the political community, though, and he hasn’t given up plans for one day running for mayor. In fact, if Taylor seeks and wins another term. Simpson will probably be in better shape to make the race in 1989, after two years in which to build some financial security.. . .

Speaking of Richard Knight, his decision to follow Anderson to DART has created something of a mess at City Hall. The word was passed to Anderson that the mayor and a number of other people weren’t too happy about Knight’s untimely departure, so Anderson and Knight changed their plans. Knight agreed to take the interim job, and the council voted unanimously to appoint him. (It was not, at any time, an anti-Barnett act. by the way. She has very strong support among some council members; they agreed, however, that it would not serve her interests or theirs to give her the interim job.) Knight’s reasons for pulling out of the City Hall situation, though, make perfect sense: he wants to advance in his career field, but he says he was certain that he couldn’t win the competition for the city manager’s job. The DART post seems like an excellent opportunity to prove himself further {he already enjoys considerable respect at City Hall and in the community; in fact, he was mulling over two very attractive offers, one from a prominent local bank and the other from a utility company, when the DART opportunity came along). If all goes well for Knight at DART, then a future Dallas City Council shouldn’t have to look very far afield when the time comes-and it will, inevitably- to look again for a new city manager. “Who knows?” says Knight with a shrug. “The opportunity might be better for me in a few years.” Which means the private sector will probably have to wait a while longer…