San Antonio City Manager Announces Retirement | Texas Public Radio

San Antonio City Manager Announces Retirement

Nov 29, 2018

Updated 6:30 p.m.

Sheryl Sculley announced her retirement Thursday, after more than 13 years as San Antonio's city manager.

Sculley, 66, said she intends to remain as city manager through the transition process, "but will leave no later than June 30, 2019."

"I'm not gone yet. It's not as if I'm leaving immediately. I have committed to the mayor and council to stay through the transition to the next city manager," she said. "... And I think the schedule will create an orderly transition for the good of the city, during the upcoming election this spring and legislative session."

Sculley's resignation comes less than a month after voters approved a charter amendment — Prop B — which limits the pay and tenure of future city managers. The caps, however, do not apply to Sculley, who has a base salary of $475,000.

RELATEDNirenberg, Brockhouse Evaluate Passage Of Props B, C

“This is my decision. I've wanted to retire for at least two years — my husband would probably say longer than that — but I stayed to see through a number of major projects," she said.

When asked about Prop B, Sculley said its passage will certainly limit the candidate pool for San Antonio's next city manager.

"I've spent the last 30 years in the two largest council-manager forms of government cities in the U.S. — Phoenix and San Antonio — and this is very difficult work," she said. "We manage a $3 billion budget and operations that include 13,000 employees. ... So to cap the tenure (and) to limit salary is a very difficult thing, and I say that because, in the major cities, managers are earning much more than $300,000. So it will it will be tough and it will impact the city."

LISTEN | Exclusive interview with Sheryl Sculley

District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez agreed. 

"One of our big challenges is going to be convincing somebody who's got the expertise and experience and competence, while — at the same time — telling them if they do a really good job that we're going to fire them in eight years and pay them below market wages," he said. "We're going to have to find that kind of talent with that one arm tied behind our back."

District 4 Councilman Rey Saldana, however, believes these limitations could mean the next city manager will be a hire from within.

“It makes the most sense in my head as I consider the team that’s built," he said. "And frankly, a lot of them know this city and can run any other major city in the country. They just happen to be in the city with one of the best-run management teams in the country.”

Meanwhile, District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse, who publicly supported Prop B and has called for Sculley to resign, praised her departure.

"I think it is the right decision. Listening to the will of the voters. Listening to the will of the public is kind of where things are in how City Hall is changing," he said on TPR's "The Source." "I think this is the right call and, frankly, years in the making."

The same day Sculley announced plans to retire, a city lawsuit against the San Antonio fire union was dropped. 

Sculley was a strong supporter of the lawsuit, which said its contract with the fire union violated the Texas Constitution and public policy because of an "evergreen" clause. The clause keeps the expired contract in place for up to 10 years after it expires. It's been four years since the union's contract expired.

When asked about the fire union, which spearheaded Prop B, Sculley said, "I think they were looking at a way that they would have greater influence to get what they want."

"As a professional manager, they were not able to politically influence me but they would certainly go around me and try to politically influence council members so that they could get their way," she said. "And historically in San Antonio, they have done that.

"... Council members were very supportive of the business plan that we put together in our attempt to restructure their collective bargaining agreements to make them affordable to the taxpayers and, most importantly, sustainable over time. And they would rather deal with people that may not be on the council for a long period of time, may not understand the intricacies of a collective bargaining agreement or healthcare pension analysis." 

WATCH | Mayor Ron Nirenberg news conference on Sculley's departure

Sculley was recruited in 2005 from Phoenix, where she was assistant city manager. Prior to that, she served as city manager of Kalamazoo, Michigan, for 15 years.

Sculley's accomplishments during her tenure include increasing San Antonio's financial reserves from 3 percent to 10 percent of the annual budget; completing more than $2 billion in infrastructure improvements with voter support; eliminating more than 1,600 civilian positions with no layoffs; and adding more than 600 police and fire uniform positions, according to the release. 

Mayor Ron Nirenberg issued a statement in praise of Sculley.

“Sheryl Sculley has been a truly outstanding city manager. She has delivered 13 years of exemplary fiscal stewardship. Under her leadership, San Antonio has become the best-run big city in the country," he said in the release. "... I respect her decision to retire, and I appreciate her willingness to stay on as city manager during the transition process to ensure a smooth beginning for her successor."

Steve Short contributed to this report

Vince Kong can be reached at vince@tpr.org or on Twitter @teamvincek, and Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive