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El Paso's first city manager to resign in a year; City looks for replacement
By: Genevieve Curtis and Jamel Valencia
EL PASO: Texas-- El Paso's first city manager plans to make her departure. City Manager Joyce Wilson tendered her letter of resignation and will leave her position in September 2014, as per her contract.
Thursday, Wilson addressed the public on her decision to move on after her contract ends.
"I feel really proud of the organization that I really helped to create," said Wilson.
She's arguably the most powerful woman in El Paso and will leave her post after a 10-year tenure. Wilson said when she started some people didn't think she'd last more than two years.
Now with a new mayor and council, Wilson said she believes they'd like to select their own city manager and adds it's time for her to move on to the next chapter.
"It's time to go. When it's time to go, it's time to go," said Wilson. "I think there's been an expectation among the mayor and council that I would step down at the end of my career, my contract."
Wilson commented on the successes she's had as city manager.
I'm really proud of the work we did on the bus system. I think the highlight of my career was actually getting the bonds passed last fall. That was a pretty amazing thing coming out of a recession having 70-plus percent of the population of the voters vote to affirm it," said Wilson.
Wilson said the controversy surrounding the downtown ballpark and email fiasco was her lowest point.
"I was like slashed and burned pretty badly for a sustained period of time. At one point I thought it was going to cause permanent harm to my career. It was a painful lesson in being careless," said Wilson.
But the ballpark will be a visible piece of Wilson's legacy.
"At the end of the day you're going to have a world-class ballpark and Triple A baseball so if I had to get tarred and feathered in the process, it was worth it in the end," said Wilson.
Mayor Oscar Leeser said the city is now focusing attention on finding a new city manager. Leeser hopes Wilson will be able to help contribute to the search process and ideally there will be an overlap between the new city manager's start date and Wilson's departure.
"It gives us the opportunity to take our time, find the right firm, find the right person that will help us and work with us," said Leeser.
Leeser has asked staff to start looking at search firms to assist in the process.
"I do look forward to helping with a smooth transition and leaving the organization in a very good place. I think the thing that's important now is had I left in the summer, I think I would have left the organization in a crisis. I think now it's very stable the leadership is stable and in place and they've got their footing," said Wilson.
Leeser talked about the type of candidate they are looking for.
"We want somebody that council and mayor works hand in hand with and help us continue our vision of growth and it's important that we find somebody that fits council and our city," said Leeser.
Wilson said she doesn't know if she wants to continue to pursue opportunities in local government
"It's very demanding. You're always on call. You're really never off. You're very much in the public eye. You can't really let your guard down. So do I want to do that again at this point in my life, I don't know. If a good community came up than I might consider doing it. But otherwise I've thought about teaching. I've had some conversations about that. I think I have a lot to offer," said Wilson.
Wilson said she's also considered pursuing a career as a consultant.
Wilson said the city manager form of government allows for a smooth transition, regardless of elected leadership. That will help ensure the projects still on the table can be completed, plus bond oversight committees will help keep the multimillion-dollar projects on track.
"I think El Paso has great potential and will continue to move forward in a very constructive way. Regardless of who's at the helm. I'm sure the mayor and council will do their due diligence and hire a great leader to take over and be your next city manager," said Wilson.
As for whoever succeeds her, "It's a great city, it's a beautiful city, the people are wonderful and I think you need to tap into the enthusiasm and power of the citizens," said Wilson. "Develop really positive relationships with the mayor and council, individually and as a body. Help them make good decisions, provide them good information, but also understand they're the policy-making body. Do your best to help them execute any decision they make even if you didn't recommend it or necessarily agree with it."
The position of city manager is the only job the mayor and council can hire.
Wilson is the city's first manager. She was hired in 2004. Her contract with the city of El Paso expires in September 2014.
Earlier this year, Wilson was a front-runner for the position of becoming the county manager for Lee County in Florida. Wilson declined the job. After Oscar Leeser was elected as mayor, Wilson and Leeser discussed working together to help with the transition of her position before her contract ends.