Sculley's Final Council Meeting: 'It’s Been My Honor And Privilege'
The sun set on City Manager Sheryl Sculley’s time at San Antonio City Hall. She attended her last council meeting Thursday as the city’s top executive.
City staff, council members and citizens gave her a standing ovation as she wrapped up 13 years as city manager. Sculley will step down next week and hand over the reins of city government to her top lieutenant, Erik Walsh.
“Thank you to the 13,000 employees who day in and day out serve 1.5 million residents of San Antonio. It’s been my honor and privilege to serve as your leader,” Sculley said.
Before coming to San Antonio, Sculley was assistant city manager for the city of Phoenix. She was hired in 2005 by the city council and former mayor Phil Hardberger to clean up the city organization.
“My charge was to turn the organization upside down, to improve city services to elevate the professionalism of staff, to fix the broken spokes, and develop the largest bond programs we thought we could handle,” Sculley said.
Hardberger was one of seven council members from 2005 who attended the ceremony honoring Sculley’s service to the city.
He said hiring Sculley was the best decision he ever made for San Antonio.
“She already had a string of victories [in Phoenix]. The city of San Antonio -- as much as we love her -- had challenges,” Hardberger said. “It was the challenges that finally sold Sheryl on coming to San Antonio. She knew she could make a difference, and did she ever succeed.”
Sculley told the council she’s been often asked recently what she considers her greatest accomplishments. She listed the creation of the executive staff currently running the city’s 40 departments; the city’s financial management and the three bond programs during her tenure.
During her time as city manager, Sculley oversaw the creation of the voter approved Pre-K 4 SA program, expansion of the convention center, constructing the Museum Reach, automating garbage collection, Alamodome improvements, hosting two NCAA Basketball Final Four tournaments, creating 7,000 more housing units in downtown and numerous other initiatives.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the city is a better place than when Sculley arrived.
“It was a great city then but it’s an even greater city now. It’s more equitable, our city government is more professional, it’s more efficient, certainly more disciplined, and we in fact are the best-run city in the United States,” Nirenberg said.
Sculley most frequent criticism was over her salary. Her last pay increase of $25,000 brought her to a salary of $475,000 in 2018.
The salary was often a target for the public safety unions – the San Antonio Police Officer’s Association and San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association. The two frequently publically chastised her salary, especially during the health care and wage contract dispute between the unions and city in 2014.
The fire union launched a series of propositions to amend the city charter in 2018. One included Proposition “B,” which would cap the time in office and total pay of a city manager. It passed in November but would not have affected Sculley due to grandfathering.
Sculley, 66, announced her retirement before the end of that month, saying she had been considering retirement for several years.
District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse was a supporter of the amendments and was often a critic of Sculley’s pay, bonuses and some decisions. However, he praised her leadership on Thursday.
“I don’t have many regrets up here on this dais. I let it fly like there’s no tomorrow,” Brockhouse said. “One regret I do have is not including with you enough of your accomplishments, and I let sometimes politics get too far in it, and, I do not say this lightly: you are the finest city manager this city has ever had.”
Sculley’s final day as city manager will be Feb. 28. But she may remain with the city until the summer as incoming city manager Walsh transitions into his new role.
Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules