June 24, 2020

Transition at the Top as City Manager Accepts New Opportunity

Last night, the Bastrop City Council publicly announced their newly hired city manager, Paul Hofmann.  By all accounts Bastrop is poised to take their city to the next level, with a clearly defined and well-supported vision for its continued growth and future direction.  They specifically sought out, and found in Paul, an experienced and capable administrator to help them implement their vision and make it a reality.  He’ll do great there, and we wish him and the City of Bastrop all the best.

Paul has a lot to be proud of during his six and a half years as city manager here in Bellaire.  Among our most visible accomplishments in that time are all the progress we’ve made in the physical redevelopment of our commercial areas in furtherance of the Comprehensive Plan, and the completion of our municipal facilities project, 15 years and three bond propositions in the making.  Early in his tenure he tackled the problem of persistent vacancies in Police and Fire, and we’ve kept up our staffing levels ever since.  He has helped restore and maintain balance in addressing some unsustainable financial trends we’ve been up against since before he got here, and has built a team of extremely hardworking and talented professionals, leaving us with a city organization that’s in very good shape.  The popular Bellaire Citizens Academy he established, now entering its fifth year and still on a wait list, has enhanced community engagement with local government and fostered stronger relationships between city staff and the residents they serve.

Less tangible, but equally important, is Paul’s unique contribution in improving and providing structure to our decision-making process.  Specifically, the strategic planning approach he introduced ensures that short term decisions are made with appropriate reference to longer term objectives.  The way in which our several related planning elements link to and inform one another over a range of time horizons helps Council make decisions that are neither shortsighted nor haphazard, and promotes clear and consistent direction to staff.

Paul will also be remembered for his effective leadership through the incredibly difficult challenges of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.  As will his wife, Barb, who stepped up to coordinate a group of volunteers to assist residents with rebuilding permits and other needs in our Harvey Recovery Resource Center.  Barb is perhaps best known for her passionate and energetic involvement as a member of the Advisory Board of the non-profit Patrons for Bellaire Parks, but that is just one of the many ways she has participated in and supported our community during their time here.  Together they’ve made their mark, and made lasting friendships along the way.  They’ll always be part of our Bellaire family.

Paul’s last day with us will be August 2.  Between now and then the City Council will appoint an interim city manager to serve in the transition to a permanent hire, likely for the next several months at least.  There’s a lot to consider, and it’s not made any easier by the ongoing pandemic.  Though we’re now in budget season, since it’s the assistant city manager who’s already primarily responsible for shepherding the development of a proposed budget, there shouldn’t be any interruption to that process.

In today’s political climate, the opportunity to hire a new city manager changes everything.  While the Council as a whole will make this hugely important decision, individual members will share ownership in their selection.  The currently prevailing dynamics of the Council-Manager relationship will no longer get in the way.  We’ll be able to restore our focus on the issues, when the city manager is no longer made out to be, himself, the issue.  This may just be the very thing we need to move forward productively and constructively as a Council, granted so far we haven’t had much of a chance to come together and build consensus amid all the disruptions of this most unusual year.

There’s nothing easy about being a city manager, and that’s certainly true in Bellaire.  It takes a special person with a particular devotion to public service.  For our next city manager to be successful, he or she is going to need to be the right fit.  And if that’s what we want, and to have a functional working relationship, then we’re going to need to make it a point to be the right fit, too.

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