In search of leadership

Everyone familiar with the Town of Argyle’s proceedings over the past 18 months is certain that the new leader of the town’s professional staff will need to look good in business attire… and a striped shirt with a referee cap.

The Argyle Town Council is in the final stages of hiring a new Town Manager.

“I believe [the whole] council’s goal is to move forward for the town’s future growth, but we’re pretty dysfunctional right now,” said Bonny Haynes, Place 4 council member. “We need a leader— and so does the town’s professional staff—to present a plan for our growth. We need a town manager.”

Currently, the town has narrowed its search for a new Town Manager to three candidates and hopes to present an offer to the finalist after the upcoming Oct. 22 town council meeting.

“We had seven initial candidates recommended to us by our consulting firm and are confident that the final three candidates will each be more than qualified to serve as Town Manager,” said Mayor Matt Smith. “Our interviews with each one will hopefully decide which one will be the best fit for our town—staff, department heads and the citizens.”

Argyle’s Town Manager staff position is currently vacant following the Aug. 28 firing of Interim Town Manager Rod Hogan.

Smith said Hogan’s termination came in part for failing to provide a requested three versions of a 2013 budget– worst case scenario, best-case scenario and a middle-of-the-road version—after meeting with the town’s department heads for their input.

According to Smith, Hogan presented council a single, deficit-spending version of the 2013 budget without any consultation between himself and the town’s department heads. In addition, it was recommended that the only way to balance the budget would be to cut staff salaries 10-percent.

Council members who voted to terminate Hogan were: Joey Hasty, Place 1; David Wintermute, Place 2; and Joan Delashaw, Place 3, while Bonny Haynes, Place 4 and Peggy Krueger, Place 5, voted against termination.

“I felt it was important to move from a deficit-spending budget to [one] trying to balance the budget. And, to look at each department for what cuts could be made based on what a department’s actual needs were, instead of just continuing to budget things based on historical numbers,” said Smith.

The Town Council narrowly approved a $2.4 million budget Sept. 25 by a 3-2 vote, with the vote split along the same lines as the Hogan dismissal.

In a comment posted Aug. 31 on The Cross Timbers Gazette website, Council member Joey Hasty wrote: “I feel that our former Interim Town Manager made some crucial management errors, therefore he is no longer with us.”

Haynes, who has been a council member since 2004, disagreed with Hogan’s termination.

“It was a huge mistake to fire Hogan,” said Haynes. “He gave the council all the budget changes it had asked for [on Aug. 14], so the town hasn’t had a leader while it searches for a new manager.”

Hogan was hired after former five-year veteran Town Manager Lyle Dresher retired on March 26. 

Dresher’s departure came during an unsettled period at town hall following the election of first-term mayor Smith in May 2011.

During a special meeting on June 2, 2011, Bonny Haynes read a prepared statement directed at Smith following that election.

“This discussion is about bullying, intimidation and threats, and this discussion is about how we are going to conduct ourselves … We, the council, fully expect you to understand your roles, responsibilities and duties as Mayor and also want you and the public to understand what you are allowed to do by law and what you are not allowed to do …  you do not have the authority to shut down Town Hall with your disruptive behavior and over-burden the employees with your exorbitant demands for information to be provided at a moments notice … You are not entitled to get them any quicker through scare tactics, threats or intimidation.  We all have to go through a process to get public records … For many reasons, no mayor or council member is entitled to a key to the building, or 24/7 access to the building, or a computer connected to the town server or our own private office in the building … you are certainly not going to tell Mr. Dresher that you are going to take his office in town hall and he that can do his work just as easily in a cubicle … Lyle Dresher is a man of the highest character and integrity, and has more knowledge and experience running a city than all of the people in this room put together Last year we unanimously passed Ordinance 2010-17 … we gave him authority to conduct business as a Town Manager instead of a Town Administrator.   

“Dresher and I didn’t see eye-to-eye about things and Bonny Haynes got in the middle of that,” said Smith. “It’s acceptable for folks to agree to disagree, but not to have a personal relationship with the staff. Her talk about the staff’s morale keeps coming up, but the department heads are all doing great.”

In December 2011, Smith openly questioned the roles of the Town Manager and Town Secretary, suggesting to council members that the two positions could be consolidated.

When Dresher announced his resignation in January, he gave no explanation about his decision.

Haynes said Smith doesn’t possess the experience needed to be an effective mayor.  She has also pointed to Smith’s past arrest record not being disclosed to voters prior to the May 2011 election.

A practicing attorney and graduate of SMU’s Law School, Haynes believes that anyone with a multiple arrest record should not run for public office.

Smith, 37, credits “youthful exuberance and bad decisions” for his arrests for bar fights in the ‘90s. They include several assault, criminal mischief and deadly conduct charges, a 2nd Degree Disorderly Conduct in Newport, Ore., in October 2010 and a DWI charge in January 2011.

Smith also points to his hands-on style of serving as Argyle’s mayor being a possible source of friction.

“The previous mayor was a ‘hands-off’ kind of guy,” said Smith. “Well, that’s not me. I’m out there with the public works crews and just love seeing the day-to-day growth of the town. I’ve also worked to get people back involved in the town … we now have a Lion’s Club here in Argyle.”

The Smith family has lived in Argyle for more than 125 years. As an Argyle native, Smith is eager to get a new Town Manager in place.

“I want to schedule a [town] council retreat when the new manager comes on board,” said Smith.

“We can get everything out and on the table and move forward. Once that happens, man-oh-man, there’ll be no stopping us.”

While there may be different points of view between the council members, they all say that a new Town Manager can provide a new starting point for the town’s future growth.

The Argyle Town Council will hold a special meeting on Monday, Oct. 22, 5 p.m. at 1005 Roadrunner Road in Bartonville to discuss the duties and responsibilities of the new Town Manager, as well as deliberate the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of Codi Delcambre, Town Secretary, and Kim Collins, Finance Director.

Hopefully, in addition to a ref’s cap, Argyle’s new staff leader will be equipped with a Peace Pipe.

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