Schertz selects new city manager
Schertz officials voted unanimously to hire Mark Browne as its new city manager.
Browne, currently city manager for Alamo Heights, was not present for the Nov. 27 vote.
“Schertz is an outstanding opportunity for both my professional and personal growth,” Browne said in a telephone interview. “It is a fast-growing community with a large city staff, and it provides a challenge for me, something I really wanted to do. I see it as a great opportunity.”
Browne, 63, retired in 2005 after nearly 27 years from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of colonel. A Galveston native, Browne was hired as the city manager of Terrell Hills and, six years later, of Alamo Heights. He has a doctorate in public administration from the University of Alabama.
During his military career, he was first operations director and plans and then resources director for the recruiting service at Randolph Air Force Base. He also served as deputy commanding officer of the 7th Support Group at Dyess AFB, Texas, and as commanding officer of the 348th Recruiting Squadron at Little Rock AFB, Ark.
During his six years in Terrell Hills, Browne oversaw the sale of that city’s sewer system to the San Antonio Water System, completion of a $1.5 million drainage channel project, and the purchase of two properties for relocation of the fire and police departments. In Alamo Heights, in addition to focusing on infrastructure, he oversaw development of a new city hall complex.
That multi-faceted background definitely influenced his selection as the new top administrator for Schertz.
“We have a very close relationship with Joint Base San Antonio and particularly with Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph,” said Schertz Mayor Michael Carpenter, “and I think the council felt that experience will be invaluable in maintaining a very strong and close relationship with Joint Base San Antonio.
“The second thing was he has had 13 years of experience as a city manager,” the mayor added. “That’s a good tenure and an opportunity to learn many, many things that you need to know to run any city of any size, but certainly that will be germane to things we’re doing here.”
Carpenter said that, in a lot of ways, Schertz is an unusual situation. For instance, it spans three counties, contains parts of five school districts, and is served by three municipal utilities, he noted. “One of the reasons he gave for wanting to come to Schertz is that unique challenge that he perceives it represents.” the mayor explained. “I’m excited about Dr. Browne joining us, and I think he’s going to do a great job for us.”
Browne is expected to step into his new role Jan. 3 at an annual salary of $180,000. He succeeds John Kessel who, having served as Schertz city manager for seven years, was asked to resign Jan. 19 after a no-confidence vote.
Originally Schertz received 52 resumes to fill Kessel’s position, but after reviewing qualifications, council members cut that list to 23. Eventually, they conducted interviews with five candidates before selecting Browne.
Brian James, who filled in as acting city manager, will return to his previous post of executive director of development when Browne joins the staff in January.
At its Nov. 27 meeting, city council also was briefed on the results of an employee engagement survey taken in July and August.
Conducted by the Institute of Organizational Excellence from the University of Texas-Austin, the online survey of all Schertz city staff showed some declines in job satisfaction and employee information while other categories like supervision, sense of community and employee development remained the same or showed slight improvements from similar surveys in 2014 and 2016.
Institute director Noel Landuyt, who conducted the survey and briefed the council, noted that one out of three Schertz employees feel upper management should communicate better and one out of four said there weren’t enough opportunities to provide supervisors with feedback.
The Schertz city staff prepared a plan to improve those results, proposing a five-month series of employee meetings to provide feedback, set goals, create action plans and share with all staff.
“This is a valuable thing for us to do,” Carpenter said. “No matter what the results, I would encourage the council to continue this into perpetuity. The feedback we get is invaluable. The opportunity we have as a result of asking for that feedback to further our organization and what we do well is invaluable. Not all of our competition does this, and I think it makes us stronger and better than they.”
More refinement of the communication plans will occur over the next several months, council was told.