In cities like Killeen, where the council reflects its population’s diverse racial makeup, often the people running the city do not.
The Daily Herald confirmed this week that out of the top 45 government executives in Killeen, Harker Heights and Copperas Cove, only one is a person of a minority race.
City executives — those within one rung of power from the city manager’s office — receive the highest salaries and have the most responsibility of all city employees.
Killeen’s population is 34 percent non-Hispanic white, 34 percent African-American and 22 percent Hispanic, according to the 2010 Census.
However, after requests made by the Daily Herald through the Texas Public Information Act, Killeen officials refused to answer questions about race.
“I do not know, nor would I presume to know anyone’s ethnicity or gender but my own,” said Hilary Shine, the city’s executive director of public information.
But neighboring cities responded.
According to officials, Harker Heights has 18 Caucasian executives and Copperas Cove has one minority in a top leadership position: a Hispanic finance director.
In the past nine months, Killeen lost two minority executives, former human resources director Debbie Maynor — an African-American — and former finance director Barbara Gonzales — a Hispanic.
Throughout that same time period, the city hired four white executives.
In the coming fiscal year, Killeen may see two vacancies in executive positions. Maynor’s post is open, and the city could be looking to hire a new executive director of community services, if the council approves the budget as proposed by staff.
Rosa Hereford, who in 1984 was the first woman and the second African-American to be elected to the Killeen City Council, said hiring minorities in upper-level city management positions in Killeen has been a problem for some time.
“I don’t know how the city is advertising these positions, but the fact is we don’t have African-American executives,” Hereford said.
“I think the city should make an effort to have a representation of its population.”
Hiring candidates based solely on their race is unreasonable, but diversity in city government is an important goal to have, Hereford said.
“We are not talking about quotas; we are talking about an effort to show that you are hiring minorities,” she said.
TaNeika Driver-Moultrie, president of Killeen chapter of the NAACP, said she wanted to know who applied to the recent executive openings.
“I don’t think any city looks for a certain race to apply,” Driver-Moultrie said.
Although they might not be city executives, Killeen has many African-Americans in management positions, including Brett Williams, Killeen’s director of Parks and Recreation, Driver-Moultrie said.
“You may have a secretary who may be a leader and she has just as much value and leadership on the staff,” she said.
Parks and recreation director is not considered an executive position in Killeen because the department falls under the community services wing.
Women in workplace
One place where of all three local cities have continued to show diversity is in the employment of women in powerful places.
While they don’t hold as many top positions as men, women are filling more leadership roles in local government.
Two of the four executives hired in Killeen are women: Ann Farris is an assistant city manager and Martie Simpson is finance director.
Copperas Cove City Manager Andrea Gardner is the top executive in the largest city in Coryell County.
Gardner, 43, was hired in September 2007 after a career in the private sector, managing mergers and acquisitions at New York Life, a national life insurance company.
She said in the private sector, she worked with just as many female executives as male executives.
“I found it to be very equal in the private sector, whereas you don’t see very many females in management positions in the public sector,” Gardner said.
Despite being one of few female executives in local government, Gardner has never been discouraged from obtaining leadership roles.
“I have never had anyone say to me, ‘You can’t do this because you are female,’” Gardner said.
While working in the private sector, Gardner said many of her co-workers discouraged her move into government because of the restrictions and public scrutiny associated with government jobs.
“Government gets a bad rap,” Gardner said. “There is less interest on the parts of individuals because of the political aspect that comes with it.”
Contact Brandon Janes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552