Ann Farris says she has high expectations as she starts her new job.

In a meeting with Herald editors on her first day as Killeen’s interim city manager, Farris promised she would operate with integrity and consistency.

Certainly, Killeen’s residents expect and deserve as much.

But residents also deserve a quick transition to a new, permanent city manager — and that may not be forthcoming.

Farris said she envisioned the city “casting a wide net” in searching for a new top administrator, with the entire process taking up to a year.

The city staff has gotten the ball rolling, contacting several municipalities, securing lists of search firms from various entities and drafting a request for proposal to solicit bids from executive search firms. That RFP will be posted for four weeks, after which the staff will make a recommendation to the City Council.

Hopefully, the search firm chosen will produce several qualified candidates with strong backgrounds as city managers —  something Farris readily admits she does not possess.

Indeed, while Farris is a skilled administrator with a long history serving the Killeen Independent School District, her time with the city has been relatively brief. She was hired as the  assistant city manager for internal services in January 2013.

For now, Farris must oversee a staff that has no assistant city managers, as well as several department heads who are used to dealing with former City Manager Glenn Morrison, who retired last week — a significant challenge.

Over the past year, many of the city’s policies and procedures have come under scrutiny by several council members as well as the media — ranging from reporting of budget numbers to transparency of city operations.

During her visit to the Herald, Farris was quick to say that she would consider new ways of looking at things. That’s a welcome statement.

However, many of her answers regarding her commitment to better transparency gave the impression that her administration may lean toward keeping the status quo.

Regarding ongoing Freedom of Information requests, Farris would not offer to facilitate easier access to the requested information, rather suggesting the Herald “just keep doing what you’re doing.”

On the topic of media access to department heads, Farris listened to editors’ concerns that the current process of funneling all information through the city’s public information director is inefficient and cumbersome, but ultimately explained it was city policy.

True, but that policy — which Farris characterized as the result of a “circle the wagons mentality” — was instituted by the previous city manager and can just as easily be revised or rescinded by the current top administrator.

Farris said she is not seeking the city manager’s post on a permanent basis. The lifelong area resident noted she does not live inside the city limits, as required under the city charter. Asked if her residency is the only reason she won’t seek the post, she replied, “It’s the best reason.”

Residency aside, Farris wouldn’t appear to be a good fit for the position, long-term, because of her lack of experience in the area of finance, though she oversaw the city’s finance department in her ACM position.

Finally, Farris acknowledged that being “from here” has its pluses and minuses.

Indeed, while extensive familiarity with Killeen has significant value, it also serves as a reminder of the insider network that has governed the city in the past and led to many of the current problems.

Prior to accepting the assistant city manager job, Farris taught a leadership course at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. She said she applied for the city job to put those leadership skills to work — skills that will be tested in the coming months.

Hopefully, Farris will lead the city with integrity and openness during her tenure.

But ultimately, Killeen will need new leadership — and a new direction — if the city is to thrive.

Contact Dave Miller at dmiller@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7543

(3) comments

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.
Copy: 'Farris said she envisioned the city “casting a wide net” in searching for a new top administrator, with the entire process taking up to a year.
The city staff has gotten the ball rolling, contacting several municipalities, securing lists of search firms from various entities and drafting a request for proposal to solicit bids from executive search firms. That RFP will be posted for four weeks, after which the staff will make a recommendation to the City Council.
Hopefully, the search firm chosen will produce several qualified candidates with strong backgrounds as city managers —  something Farris readily admits she does not possess. End of copy.
So the city staff has written a RFP(Q?) that is for the purpose of selecting a search firm that Farris 'hopes' will bring closure to the quest for a new city manager. She 'hopes'???
She readily admits that she does not possess the knowledge of what it takes to successfully function as a city manager. As a city manager I would think that a person who possesses the necessary qualifications who indeed knows what the position of city manager entails, at least have some smattering of what qualifications the city manager should possess.
As you have seen, this council is bringing forth 'old business' to be put forth as 'new business' in light of 'what they are pressing this 'new' city council to be aware of. I say that is 'old business' as I am of the personal opinion that 'all of the business to be put forth is things that the should have been dealt with by the city budget, such as an item to purchase furniture for the 'purchasing of $66,745 worth of office furniture and equipment with Perry Office Plus for the Cornerstone Building. Now that has been brought forth, in a piecemeal fashion at least 3 times that I can remember, first it was renovation of the cornerstone building itself, then it was install a new security system for the cornerstone building, and now it's put furniture in the reconditioned, new security enhanced building that we have just paid an arm and a leg for. My question is this 'Why didn't they,the staff recognize this up front??? That's what the 'Plan', long range or otherwise is for isn't it? You have to 'look at the plan to know what is in it'.
The Purchasing a new aerial lift truck that would cost about $118,562. Why wasn't that a part of last years budget??? It's called 'looking at what will be required to operate this fleet for the next year and 'plan' accordingly'.
A resolution for procurement of fleet services tires that would cost $306,000. Again, why wasn't that a part of this city's forecast that was required to be a part of the budget for 2016. The fleet Services Director 'should be aware' of that little necessity, operation of the rolling stock. Why in the world was that not a part of the budget forecast???
And lastly, A memorandum resolution to construct a portion of the Rosewood Drive hike and bike trail as part of the White Rock Estates Phase 10 subdivision. The project is estimated at $37,180. Was that a part of the 'plan for the development of this city? It should and again, why was it not a part of the budget for 2016? Look ahead city council.
Copy: 'Finally, Farris acknowledged that being “from here” has its pluses and minuses.
Indeed, while extensive familiarity with Killeen has significant value, it also serves as a reminder of the insider network that has governed the city in the past and led to many of the current problems. End of copy.
As an insider from here, did she look at these 4 items that are now being brought up before the council, saying to Morrison, 'Don't you want to include these items as part of the proposed city budget? - or did she 'not think of the importance of items such as these?
I personally feel that this city is being 'led' in the same fashion as before, citizens, people, not giving a hang about what is being done. I say 'get out and vote'. It's the only way you can effectuate change. After all, 'it's your money this council is spending' or do you not think of that as important?
But this is only my opinion.
One of the 5 % who voted.

Bear3

There are many qualified candidates and it should not take an entire year to bring a City Manager that meets all of the qualifications.
They blatantly overlooked an individual giving Ann Farris the Internal Service job. This gentleman had a City Management background with a MBA, CPA and worked with Fort Hood and is affiliated with the transportation committees at the state level.

The city just feared he had too many good ethics and morals?!

This City needs to get rid of the good 'ole boy mentality and do what is right for a change for the sake of those paying the taxes, utility bills, etc.

Eliza

A lot of this hyper-ventilating over who will be brought in as Permanent City Manager, If Morrison had shown the common courtesy of giving a fair notice long before the one that he did.

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