09-06 cloer-01

Newly appointed City Manager Leslie Cloer

Newly appointed City Manager Leslie Cloer faces a myriad of problems and challenges, as well as questions about how she will manage.

Among the most pressing: repairing roads and water mains, getting the city's water treatment facility up to state standards, and replacing key managers that left under her tenure as interim city manager.

It's unclear how Cloer, 38, plans to tackle these problems, and whether she will do so in a transparent matter. Despite numerous attempts by the Herald-Press to contact Cloer over the last week, she has remained unavailable for comment.

An Arkansas native, Cloer and her family moved to Texas in 2016. Cloer, who maintains a residence in Palestine, would not comment on whether her husband and children had joined her here.

“This isn't about my family,” she told a Herald-Press reporter. “I'd rather not comment about my family.”

Cloer became interim city manager in May, after former City Manager Michael Hornes took another job in Live Oak, Texas, near San Antonio.

As the new city manager, Cloer will earn $145,000 per year – $20,000 more than Hornes' salary during his year-and-a-half on the job.

Cloer's competence has never been questioned. City council members, who voted 5-2 Tuesday to hire her, have praised her work on tightening the city's fiscal, accounting, and purchasing practices.

Questions, however, have arisen over Cloer's management style, with the recent departures of several key city employees.

Last month, Gayle Cooper, executive director of the Palestine Economic Development Corporation, resigned without notice, citing Cloer as one of the reasons she was leaving.

Former Director of Public Works Tim Perry retired, with little advance notice, in July, starting a new job as public works director in Athens, the same day he retired.

His replacement, interim Director Rob Thames, followed suit, retiring a month later. City officials then restructured the department.

Cloer also started with some controversy. Council members Mitchell Jordan and Vickey Chivers voted against hiring her, arguing council members should have interviewed more than one candidate for the job.

No other candidates were considered for city manager.

Now, Cloer faces some daunting problems.

Infrastructure repair, including century-old water pipes, is estimated to cost $20 million or more, and take years, if not decades.

In April, the community's loss of drinkable water for four days underscored problems with the city's 50-year-old water treatment plant. The plant lacks a state-mandated backup power plan.

Bringing the plant into compliance could cost up to $3 million.

Rocky roads are another frequent complaint. Repairing the city's 36 miles of streets is estimated to cost $75 million. Without more revenue, those repairs would take 150 years to complete.

Cloer evaded questions from the Herald-Press concerning how she would handle those problems.

“I'll be sending you that information before your deadline,” she said Thursday.

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