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The Most Important Quality City Leaders Should Look For in Hiring the Next City Manager

Updated: Jul 8

The Duncanville City Council is in the process of searching for a new City Manager. Duncanville is not unlike many cities that have; or, are in the process of recovering from a turbulent season of turnover, division and change.

Though unpleasant, all are common occurrences in varying degrees in cities, towns and villages across the country. Even more so given the divisive and politically-charged environment in our nation. All has filtered down to local city councils and school boards and local leaders must take extra caution to not only not get caught up in the drama, but not take on a leading or supportive role.

Race, gender, and governing philosophies often clash. But it is important for the governing body to stay above the fray, come together and with foresight and wisdom, put aside past battles, lost or won, and do what they all have been elected to do and took an oath to do -- and that is to act in the best interest of the city and those who dwell within.

Leadership is tested in times of chaos and confusion, not when times are good and great. Given where the City of Duncanville is, where it has been, and having not a clear cohesive vision for its future, it will be imperative to make the wisest and best decision in selecting its next City Manager.

Each candidate at this level will have an impressive resume of education, management experience, letters and words of recommendation, years of experience and some will even come ladened with awards and recognitions. The tangibles. But it is the intangible that Councilmembers should look for and pray about. Tangibles are self-revelatory. Identifying the intangibles take skill, thought, wisdom, insight and prayer.

In this spirit, with all being equal in education, knowledge and experience, I offer the following acrostic as to what I believe is the most important the City Council should consider in hiring the next City Manager:

Innovative --- always curious and open to newer, better, faster, wiser ideas and ways of looking at old problems. Duncanville is an older, land-locked suburb with aging centers that while innovative in the 1980s are not in today’s market. Our demographics, location and socio-economics are not what attracts top-tier developers today. That’s realistic. But the incoming city manager must be able to see not what is, but what could be. Bringing new, altruistic people to the table with a big-picture mindset. To innovate, create, re-create and the ability, personality and tenacity to lead with humility and grace. Innovation is a product of imagination. And the new manager must possess the innate ability to imagine, more important, re-imagine and communicate what they see to those who can’t. Noble -- honorable, humble, and righteous. The decisions made, deals done will be done with honor and for the good of the City. To benefit the City as a whole, not just a few and the City of tomorrow. Yesterday is yesterday. Today is passing away. Noble managers respect those who came before, and give honor and respect to those who labored before – yet always with an eye towards those who are to come. Future generations. A noble leader is a mature leader, with more humility than hubris. A leader who seeks neither glory nor revenge. But seeks to do good by all with the right spirit. Noble leaders hold neither grudges nor any in low esteem. Truthful in word and deed. Always representing, never misrepresenting, truth. It's not perfection but honesty. The greatest asset of any leader is the ability to tell the truth when it is not popular. To live out the truth when it is not popular. To always tell the people the truth, about every issue even when it isn’t good. People are more willing to forgive a mistake spoken in truth than a lie misrepresented as truth. Truth should be their north star.

Engaged in every aspect of the community. Engaged enough with staff to see them and hear them. Engaged in the region and the Best Southwest. Engaged and caring enough to get to know different cultures, races, and customs. Engaged with every community and every neighborhood. Engaged enough to care about what they care about.

Grateful for the opportunity to lead this city. Grateful for faithful and productive employees. Grateful for the taxpayers who foot the bills, including their salary. Grateful for the City Council and Mayor, giving honor and respect without favoritism. Grateful to have been the one chosen to lead a city of people with full awareness of what this means. Gratefulness is an indication of the understanding of what a wonderful opportunity has been afforded - one which anyone else could have been chosen. But they were. Gratitude is the foundation of a great attitude and is an indication of the maturity needed to lead the city forward in this unique time in its history.

Responsive to the needs of the people. Balancing resources to meet the greatest needs. Never ducking people or issues. Responding forthrightly and as quickly as possible. Always letting the response be yay or nay and every explanation is based on fact. Have eyes that see the people. Ears that hear the people and a heart to respond timely and respectfully to the people.

Inclusive to understand and ignore the talk of “old Duncanville” and “progressive Duncanville” to understand that we all sink or swim together and that what is good for one side of town is good for the other. Affirming every resident, every visitor, every business owner, every faith or no faith, every renter, and every homeowner; giving no more time, attention, or special treatment to either. Treating each and every person with respect, regardless of their race, culture, gender, standing, wealth, or lack thereof. Seeing each citizen as a human worthy of respect and importance to the success of the city. Playing no favorites.

Technically excellent. Putting together a team based on qualifications and not loyalty. Great leaders endear loyalty and welcome accountability. Weak leaders demand loyalty and eschew accountability. Great managers don’t need to demand loyalty, because they are innately aware that they must work to earn it every day. To be the best there is. With a sound mind. Making sound judgments. Consistently in training. Reading. Studying. Listening. Not intimidated by what they don’t know and willing to learn what they don’t. Unafraid to share and listen to the latest techniques in managing people, leading people with an eye always on the bottom line. Keeping up with the latest architectural, restructuring, and renovating trends for land-locked older cities. Seeking every available certification while seeking opportunities to learn and teach others. Technically excellent managers always challenge themselves to be better today than they were yesterday. And if Duncanville is to survive and thrive, technical excellence will be key.

Yearning to always know more. Do more. Do better. Be better. Waking up every day with the goal to lead with innovation, nobility, and truth. To engage with gratitude - responding to the needs of every citizen and each member of the Council with a sense of inclusion, and technical excellence - yearning to be the best they can possibly be.

With all things being equal, what should set the next city manager candidate apart and what the Council should be looking for, is a candidate whose integrity speaks equally as loud as their experience.

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