Tommy Gonzalez takes over as El Paso’s new city manager Monday, succeeding Joyce Wilson, who served for 10 years as the city’s first city manager.
Since his selection for the job May 20, he has spent days immersing himself in briefings, meetings and getting to know the people he will oversee and the City Council members who will oversee him.
“I’ve been doing some consulting work for different organizations, and I’m finishing that up,” he told El Paso Inc. last week. “Here in El Paso, I’ve been meeting with council members one-on-one and department heads and deputy city managers.”
The main topic has been the budget, but Gonzalez said he doesn’t know enough yet to have a solid feeling about where the city’s finances stand heading into a new budget year in three months.
“I’ve given them some of my input and guidance on what I would like to see based on input I have received from City Council, and what I believe to be some of the priorities of the community,” he said. “Mainly, I want to be sure that we don’t lose any momentum and that services don’t suffer if it can be helped.”
This year, the city has had to make significant adjustments to the budget because revenue increases were overestimated.
Gonzalez said he doesn’t want to go through that.
“I want to make sure we have strong revenue projections that we feel comfortable with,” he said.
With bond projects coming up, he said, the city must plan for them carefully to be sure there’s money to manage them and that the public is informed, especially about projects that will impact neighborhoods.
Gonzalez, who is 47 and married with three children, last served as the city manager of Irving for seven years, where he gained a reputation as a progressive business and customer-oriented leader.
Before that, he was an assistant city manager in Dallas and Lubbock and city manager for the South Texas city of Harlingen.
Customer service for taxpayers and business people was a top priority for Gonzalez in Irving and, he said, it will be in El Paso as well.
“I’m thinking the next year my focus will be how we can really focus on the customer priorities, how we can get better at what our public is asking of us and what the council wants,” he said.
He said he’ll work to make sure the mayor and eight city representatives know he is working for all of them.
“When you have that constant kind of positive communication, I think that improves the overall perception of what’s being done,” Gonzalez said.
That means listening to the council, department heads and the public before making important moves, he said.
Switching to car talk, he said the city is running well now but he’s looking forward to getting his head under the hood.
“I want to see how the engine’s running and how we can fine tune it,” he said.
He said he’s excited about the talk of bringing major league soccer to El Paso.
“It demonstrates that El Paso is on the fringe of becoming a greater city,” he said. “We’ll do everything we can as an organization to put our best foot forward.
“Any city needs big ideas, and that’s a big idea.”
In coming weeks, he said he and his wife will be looking for a new home and at schools, and she will have a lot to say about it.
“I know people will want to know where we’re going to live, but my answer is if momma’s not happy at home, we’re not happy,” he said. “It’ll be her decision.
“I’ve been married 26 years, and I want to be married 27.”
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.