Last week’s appointment of Ann Farris as Killeen’s new assistant city manager of internal services is a sound investment in the city’s future.
A Killeen native, Farris has shown during her career in education and as co-director of the Killeen Food Care Center that she has the city’s interests at heart.
It goes without saying that Farris’ local roots run deep.
Farris, 62, attended Killeen schools, graduating as Killeen High School’s valedictorian in 1968.
After attending Central Texas College and subsequently earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, English and history from Texas A&M University in 1972, Farris returned to Killeen High to teach English for two years. By 1977, Farris had earned both a master’s and doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction at Texas A&M, setting the stage for a 27-year career in administration with the Killeen Independent School District. For the last seven years with Killeen ISD, Farris served as the district’s deputy superintendent for human resource development.
A few months after Farris left the district in August 2004, she accepted a position on the faculty of Tarleton State University-Central Texas (now Texas A&M University-Central Texas), teaching administrative leadership for principals. Farris is currently an associate professor of Professional Education and Policy Studies with the university.
But over the past seven years, perhaps Farris’ most visible role has been as co-director of the Killeen Food Care Center, along with her husband, Gerald.
As Killeen’s population has grown and the economy struggled at times, Farris has worked tirelessly to make sure the center had adequate stocks of food, clothing and personal items to meet the growing demand of the city’s less fortunate residents. As of last fall, Farris estimated the center served close to 7,000 people per month, with children accounting for more than 40 percent of the total.
Farris also has been active with the local United Way, serving as the chairwoman of the 2009 annual fundraising campaign.
In her new post, Farris will oversee the city’s finance, human resources, information technology and support services departments. The position was created by City Manager Glenn Morrison as part of a City Hall reorganization in the fall.
Five finalists were interviewed from among 50 applicants. Besides Farris, the other finalists were Killeen’s IT director and Killeen’s human resources director, as well as a city manager and an assistant city manager from two other Texas municipalities.
On the surface, it would seem that the finalists with city manager-level experience might have been more logical choices for the new post. Though Farris’ resume is solid in the fields of administration and human resources, it’s somewhat lacking in the area of finance — with the exception of managing the Food Care Center’s $200,000 annual budget. Still, experience alone is not always enough. How a candidate appears on paper doesn’t always translate in an in-person interview.
Ultimately, it must be acknowledged that the new assistant city manager position is one that draws more heavily on administrative skills than technical expertise in specific areas. This emphasis on management ability is what led Morrison to select the city’s former airport director, John Sutton, to be the new assistant city manager of external services — a position that oversees not only aviation, but also planning and development, public works and community services.
It’s important to note that individual department heads will continue to be instrumental in the effective operation of the city as a whole. As such, the city must focus on hiring a finance director as soon as possible — as the city has technically been without one since the previous director was suspended in early October and subsequently fired in connection with an internal investigation.
In her new role, Farris will report to Morrison, another native Killeen resident and Killeen High graduate. Between the two of them, they have more than a century of experience living in the city they now serve — and more than 50 years working for its taxpayers.
When Farris starts work next week, she will have come full circle, in a sense. Her City Hall office is in the same building where she attended elementary school in the early 1960s.
In the years since then, she has brought energy, enthusiasm, dedication and integrity to teaching, school administration and meeting the needs of the city’s economically disadvantaged. Those same qualities will make her a welcome addition at City Hall.