By Joshua Winata
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – The bare office of the city manager at City Hall was decorated with colored streamers, balloons, fresh flowers and a spread of refreshments Friday morning in honor of its newest occupant.
In a unanimous vote at a special meeting Thursday, the City Council appointed Director of Finance Andrea Gardner the city manager, making her the first woman to hold the position in Copperas Cove.
Aside from the barrage of congratulatory remarks from city staff, the transition will be almost seamless for Gardner. In addition to leading the finance department and serving as assistant city manager since January 2006, she also has had two months of experience serving as interim city manager since the departure of former City Manager Steve Alexander on July 20.
"You never know what changes might occur, but I'm not looking to make any big changes," Gardner said. "The city has been running very smoothly."
Her priorities for the city include long-term construction projects such as the Texas Department of Transportation's $58 million southwest reliever route, scheduled to open for bids in 2009, and a new station for the Copperas Cove Police Department, also slated to open in 2009.
She also said she would be working closely with the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corp. to pursue corporate and industrial growth within the city.
"She's had the pulse on the events going on in the city, and we didn't want to lose momentum with those events," Place 3 Councilman Mark Peterson said.
While many of the projects are business as usual for Gardner, moving into a permanent position enables her to implement some of her broader goals or the city as well.
"It gives me an opportunity to put a lot of my thoughts and ideas into action," she said. "I didn't want to start something that I wouldn't be able to see through to the end."
Working with Human Resources Director Kelli Sames, Gardner said one project she hopes to pursue is enhanced employee recognition programs and the evaluation of pay and benefits for city staff.
As for being the first woman in the city manager position, Gardner was unaware of the fact until it was pointed out by one of her staff members on the night of her appointment. While she acknowledges the milestone, Gardner said she would rather focus on her accomplishments and anticipates no unique challenges as a woman city manager.
"It was definitely never a reason for seeking the position," Gardner said. "I like to think that things like gender don't matter anymore."
With Gardner moving to a new position, the city begins the search to fill the voids left by her promotion. Notice for the director of finance opening will be posted as early as next week. As for the now vacant office of assistant city manager, Gardner said she and Sames are discussing potential changes in that position's function and duties.
Gardner graduated from the University of Houston in Clear Lake with a bachelor's degree in accounting and completed an 18-month certified public manager program at Sam Houston State University in December 2006.
She has an extensive background in finance, holding positions such as budget analyst and merger acquisition specialist with New York Life and American General. Prior to moving to Copperas Cove, she served as director of finance for the city of Pearland.
Gardner is active in the community, serving on the board for the Copperas Cove Rotary Club and participating in the Military Child Education Coalition Initiative.
She is married to Killeen Fire Chief Jerry Gardner and has twin daughters, Stephanie and Ashlee.
Contact Joshua Winata at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-6481