The city of Palestine will again seek and hire an assistant city manager, after leaving the position vacant for two years.
City Manager Leslie Cloer asked council members for their input on the hiring process during Monday's council meeting. Specifically, she asked their opinion on using a hiring firm, and whether she should hire from inside the city, or advertise externally.
Council members advised Cloer to forego an outside consultant and search for an assistant inside or outside city government.
It's unclear how much an assistant city manager would earn; the last assistant city manager, Michael Hornes, made about $95,000 a year.
In 2017, Hornes replaced Mike Alexander as city manager, after Alexander resigned to become a consultant for the city for one year for $100,000.
As city manager, Alexander earned $150,000 a year.
Hornes, who made $125,000 a year as city manager, never named an assistant city manager.
Cloer, who earns $145,000 a year, has full hiring authority for her assistant.
Finance Director Jim Mahoney told the Herald-Press Tuesday having an assistant city manager would be well worth the cost of an additional salary.
“The city manager is responsible for legal issues, departmental issues, and every aspect of running a city,” he said. “And still, Leslie [Cloer] handles phone calls from residents, answers complaints, and tries to be available at all times; there's not enough time in the day.”
Mahoney said having an assistant would allow Cloer to focus on running the city, while someone with decision-making capabilities handled the phone calls, and other responsibilities at ground level.
“Leslie Cloer is probably the best city manager Palestine has seen in decades,” he said. “I can't remember anyone who so genuinely wanted to do right by the city.”
Having an assistant city manager, Mahoney said, would also help city leaders achieve the transparency in government they have been promising residents. District 2 Councilman Mitchell Jordan agreed.
“Having someone available to the public while the city manager deals with the greater responsibilities of running the city would go a long way in providing transparency,” Jordan told the Herald-Press. “Leslie Cloer has more to do than some of our past city managers, in my opinion, and there's only so much time.”
Jordan said that while past administrations had their own problems and successes, too often issues weren't dealt with in their own time.
“We have at least three lawsuits going on now,” he said. “There's repairing the infrastructure, and repairing residents' faith in the city. I'm all for spending from the general fund on what's needed – and I think this is a smart move.”
Cloer was unavailable for comment Tuesday.