After several closed-session workshop meetings, Harker Heights City Council hired David Mitchell in October to replace Steve Carpenter, who retired Tuesday.
Mitchell, 41, is no stranger to Harker Heights. He served the city in a number of capacities from 2004 to 2009, including director of planning and development and Carpenter’s assistant.
Mitchell’s first day as Heights city manager was Thursday. The Herald talked to him earlier this week about his plans for Heights’ future.
What are you looking forward to most about coming back to Heights?
Serving the citizens of Harker Heights. I began my career in Heights looking to get a master’s degree in business administration and transition back into the private sector. My time serving the citizens of Heights was so rewarding that I sought a master’s degree in public administration instead.
What made you want to take this position?
Harker Heights is a vibrant growing community. It is and has been served by councils that have the best interest of the entire community at heart in their decisions. The citizens are supportive of the city. The city’s leadership staff rival any team assembled across the state. Being selected to serve as city manager of Harker Heights and be a part of these things is humbling.
How will your time as city manager of Hutto translate in Heights?
Hutto has been one of the fastest growing cities in Texas. With this fast growth comes a myriad of challenges. Keeping up with the infrastructure needs alone is very challenging. Layer on developing the quality of life elements such as trails and parks and it can be very complex. The challenges and complexities have given me a lot of experience in a short amount of time. I believe these experiences will allow me to better manage the challenges that I will face in Harker Heights.
What similarities, if any, do you see between Heights and Hutto?
Harker Heights and Hutto are both rapidly growing Texas cities. While both cities are similar in pace of growth, the two cities are on a slightly different part of their life cycle. Heights witnessed tremendous residential growth that quickly transitioned into rapid commercial expansion, which still continues today. This commercial expansion has allowed for the tax base of Heights to be more diversified as it better balances property and sales taxes. Hutto is just now reaching that critical mass of rooftops that retailers desire. I believe that Hutto is just on the cusp of witnessing a dramatic increase in commercial businesses.
What is your vision for Harker Heights?
My vision for Harker Heights is that we be the municipal service leader in Central Texas and that we continue to develop a quality of place in Heights that is second to none for our citizens.
What issues will you address first?
I do not come in with a pre-agenda in terms of issues. I will take some time to assess the issues that the city faces. From there, and through direction from the council, I will refine my approach, prioritize issues and begin to focus on solutions.
You say Steve Carpenter helped you along your path to becoming a city manager. What is the best piece of advice he gave you?
Steve Carpenter has shared numerous pieces of advice that have served me well over my career. One piece that has always jumped out to me was that you must be true to who you are when you become a city manager. You can attempt to change who you are — some feel they must revert to being a fire brand to lead effectively. Projecting yourself as something you are not leads to burn out in the end. You must remain true to yourself in your leadership style. For me, this leadership style means being a servant leader who cares for both staff and citizen.