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San Antonio

Two Finalists Remain In San Antonio City Manager Search

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Joey Palacios
/
Texas Public Radio
Assistant City Manager Maria Villagomez, left, and Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh

Updated 8:15 p.m.

Two of the eight city manager applicants will advance to a second round of interviews — and both candidates are the current city manager’s lieutenants.

Assistant City Manager Maria Villagomez and Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh were selected from a group of eight. The search had drawn 31 applicants from inside San Antonio and as far away as Ontario, Canada.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said he was sure both candidates would not miss a step, as the city moves into a next era.

“We convened and discussed, we deliberated in a very thoughtful manner about the priorities of the city, the qualifications of the candidates, the experiences that they brought to the table — all very diverse," he said. "I think we all felt very comfortable that the consensus was to bring back Maria and Erick for the next round of interviews.”

Maria Villagomez, 45, was appointed to assistant city manager in 2015. She’s been with the city for 21 years and spent nearly a decade in city’s budget and management office. She has managed and prepared 12 city budgets and been part of the discussions of police and fire contract negotiations.

While it’s the city manager’s job to follow City Council policy direction, she says she would look forward to leading initiatives like affordable housing, transportation, and education.

“The city doesn’t play a direct role in education but I think we do play an important role in working with our schools, our local universities, our community colleges to prepare our workforce so we are competitive with other cities across the country,” she said.

Currently, Villagomez oversees the departments of budget, innovation, parks and recreation, animal care services and others.

Walsh, 49, as a deputy city manager, is one the most senior members of Sculley’s management team and he’s been part of that team since 2006. Overall, he had been with the city 24 years and started as a budget analyst. Walsh oversees the police and fire departments, emergency management as well as metro health and 311.

“I’ve addressed and handled a lot of high profile issues and I’ve done it successfully and it’s given me the opportunity to be in a position that I am today to compete for the city manager profession," he said. "There’s a been a number of topics or projects, but part of that, I think, is your attitude, part of that I think is your temperament, and I think I have the right approach and the right temperament for the job.”

Walsh has also been a part of the city’s contract negotiations with the police union and fire union.

Whoever is selected as the next city manager will be restricted to a salary of $312,000 and cannot serve in the position for more than eight years due to Proposition B which voters approved in November.

The second round of interviews will be conducted in a special City Council meeting, beginning at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Municipal Plaza Building. Council will convene in the "B" room to hear public statements from the finalists before moving into executive session for the interviews.

District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse voiced his objection to the interview process Monday, calling for the meetings to be held in the public view.

“This decision will affect our community for years to come," he said. "The best we can do is conduct the interviews with total transparency.”

Meanwhile, Nirenberg called Brockhouse’s concern a "baseless complaint."

“He knows very well that we have a thorough vetting ... and interview process for the finalists. He defended the process, saying it's one of the most transparent city manager selections scenarios of a major city,” Nirenberg said.

Nirenberg said the council will vote on appointing the next city manager on Jan. 31 after public meetings with one or both finalists.

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@tpr.org or on Twitter @joeycules