I guess nobody took Wilson seriously in June when she agreed to stay on with the city only until the end of her contract in 2014. You may remember that Mayor Oscar Leeser met with her and talked her into staying. In fact, much of the change in tone at city council meetings is due to what I can only imagine is Leeser’s pledge to Wilson to return some decorum to the proceedings. Wilson didn’t have to put up with the misogynistic attacks on her every Tuesday and could have left. Mayor Leeser ended that BS because it was 1. Wrong and B. The only way to keep her on board. If you saw this week’s meeting you witnessed Rep. Holguin thanking Wilson for her help. Boy, have things changed! (Although, kudos to Holguin for fighting for a great project for his district. That's his job and he did it well.)
Wilson did say in June that she was staying and she did say it was only until her contract was up. She made it very clear that when her contract was up – she’d be gone. The talk around City Hall and among the different political circles at the time was about how they’d go about finding a replacement. Some folks want a local person with local political alliances. Others want a virgin. Wilson’s 320 day notice that she’s quitting is in response to those two lines of thinking as well as a couple of other reasons.
First and foremost, Wilson may not be done working. She’s got a stellar reputation in her field and could easily make $150,000 - $200,000 a year working four days a week as a consultant. I know for a fact at least one consulting group has been after her for more than year because I play golf with the company’s advocacy director and he talks about her all the time. The County of Arlington, Virginia would be tremendously interested in bringing her back to her hometown (Wilson is from Arlington). There are several city manager slots in around in the Austin area where the communities are growing gangbusters and have money to spend on a seasoned professional looking to set up the management structure for a larger municipality. And you know she was named the top City Manager in the State of Texas for last year, right? Bottom line – lots of jobs out there for her. So what does resigning have to do with that?
Good question, glad you asked.
Once you turn in your notice you don’t have to hide that you are searching. There will be no surprise like the Florida deal that grabs headlines and hurts feelings. Everyone will be well aware of her intentions and she doesn’t have to run around secretly going on job interviews. Resigning this early clearly benefits Wilson personally. Suitors will be lining up.
The second matter is that it’s coming up on time to consider extending her contract. Governments and TV shows have something in common – they do things six months, or longer, ahead of when things will actually happen. For example, the Christmas themed episode of your favorite show has already been filmed. Governments don’t wait until the bitter end to re-up contracts if they can avoid it. And from what I hear, there was some clamoring from certain council members, and I likely even the mayor, to get her to stay for another year or two (Leeser is in business because he recognizes talent). Wilson does not want to stay and did this so there would be no more talk of an extension. Again, she said clearly in June that she is done in 2014.
(And by 2014 we have always meant in September. Don't listen to Martin Paredes who was misled by others that her contract was up January 1, 2014. He kept harping on it not realizing that the 120 day period wasn't even close. He doesn't do his homework and still doesn't realize he's wrong and why he's wrong.)
The third matter is picking her replacement, making sure they get trained-up properly and more importantly – making sure the new manager doesn’t fire all of her department heads and deputy city managers. By giving 320 days of notice, Wilson is guaranteeing that she will be there for the process of replacing her. It is likely she may even get to be on the search committee (which will surely be headed by Joe Wardy again). At a minimum she’ll be there to train her replacement and endear that new person to all of her hires from the department heads to the deputy city managers. It’s a brilliant move on Wilson’s part to preserve what will surely be her legacy from a management standpoint. Wilson knows better than anyone that a new city manager coming in cold would just fire everyone and hire all of their favorites from their last job to take their place (paging Dr. Garcia, paging Dr. Garcia – you’re needed at EPISD headquarters… if you get what I mean… and you do).
Council’s voting blocs will remain intact or favor the progressives even more by spring of 2014. With Acosta and Limon facing for sure recalls from well-funded opposition groups, council could see a super majority for the progressives once again. All of that means that you are likely to see an out-of-towner get picked again (and higher taxes). As far as in-town people, Bill Studer would have been the no-brainer pick, but he’s tired of the bullshit and in high demand other places, so he’s out. You will hear the names of other local progressives attached to Senator Shapleigh, but they won’t make the cut. In the end – El Paso loves imports and an import you will get.
The fourth matter here is claiming victory over all the ankle-biters and other assholes out there who are too stupid to realize that Wilson does not set policy, but instead carries it out. What are you going to do to her now? You can’t fire her. You can’t vote to not renew her contract. You can’t review her performance. If you let her go for any reason short of her contract end date you owe her an entire year’s salary (check her contract – it’s in there). Basically Wilson is tying your hands for almost a year! She can do whatever the hell she wants like she's given her two weeks notice and there’s not much you can do about it… well, you can continue to throw your childish fits in the comments section of my blog… if that makes you feel better.
Bottom line it’s a f*cking brilliant move. It kills all the birds with one stone. Wilson has the ball on your side of the fifty with the lead and less than a minute to go – there’s nothing left but a kneel down and some post-game interviews with the winner. For ten years you people have been after her and she gets to go out on her terms.
I don’t know what’s more impressive; the fact she drug all of you kicking and screaming into the 21st century, or the fact she was able to declare “check mate” just when you thought you had the game won.
Take note Norma and Four Names – Wilson knows how to win.