Liberty city manager recalls his service to city
After 31 years of service to three different municipalities in his career, Liberty City Manager Gary Broz is calling it quits and retiring — for about two weeks.
He will stay with the city until mid-June, retire, move just outside of Columbus, and reboot his career in the smaller confines in the city of Eagle Lake on July 1.
Eagle Lake just hired him as their new city manager with a decidedly smaller pay (about half) but it was a deal he couldn’t pass up.
The job is only 15 minutes from his new home.
“Who could say no?” he asked.
The decision was easy since Broz and his wife Georgia bought the home in 2016.
“We bought that with the intentions that it was our retirement home,” he said.
The Liberty city council agreed to him being there on weekends when his duties didn’t require him to attend events here in Liberty.
Right now, they have two beds, two recliners, a little bit of clothes, pots and pans and a TV. They will move the remainder of their belongings in the interim period.
While the title is the same, the responsibilities of a $30-plus million budget will shrink to a little over $5 million.
There’s no bitterness at Liberty City Hall.
“This deal was a really nice package for him,” said Liberty Mayor Carl Pickett. “He can be with his two children and spend more time with them.”
Pickett had nothing but praise for Broz’s performance on the job as city manager.
“He’s been a very dependable, loyal, and dedicated employee,” Pickett said.
He also cited his conscientiousness and ability to work well with the council as strong points.
“It’s an amicable departure and leaving on very good terms. We wish him the best in the future and hope he does well in Eagle Lake. I think those folks are getting a very good employee that they’ll be proud of and enjoy working with,” he said.
The city has scheduled a workshop on Tuesday, May 1, to discuss the recent purchase of the golf course and country club and then tackle the prospect of replacing Broz.
During his tenure, he confronted numerous issues, not the least of them having to deal with hurricanes Rita, Ike, and Harvey. There were also the occasional floods that also brought mayhem.
“I’ve been impressed watching them all [city staff] under Gary’s leadership in handling these crisis situations that come up every so often,” Pickett said.
When he arrived in 2009, he set out three goals: community recognition, financial stability and cleanup.
“I think people today have a better idea of where the city of Liberty is and can find us much better. I also believe we’ve got the city on solid financial footing. The cleanup is a constant battle, but we’ve accomplished a lot with that,” he said. He said he felt like he had done well for the city in accomplishing his goals.
Among the projects he’s tackled is infrastructure. With aging pipes underground, some decades old, he has led the city in a reconstruction project of the sewer plant and major lines that is estimated to cost some $23 million.
“We can only take it chunks at a time as we can afford it,” he said.
The electrical grid has also been reconstructed, he consolidated all the departments in public works into one, led the construction of a new, state-of-the-art police station, upgraded meters, in the middle of water upgrades of $10-12 million, and most recently, encouraged the city to purchase the golf course and country club as amenities for the community.
When Hurricane Harvey tested the levy last August, it came through with flying colors, preventing millions in potential damage. Only small repairs were necessary.
He’s not only left the city in great shape financially but sold council on deepening their reserves and starting a fixed asset fund to buy equipment and keep that turning.
Broz said he also tried to get that hometown feeling back again.
“I’ve had a good run here. We’ve had our ups and downs and we’ve had some major issues,” the city manager said, “but we worked our way through them.”
He also thanked the mayor and council.
“They’ve been very open-minded and easy to work with and receptive to what we’re doing and how to do it. I can’t complain,” he said. “The mayor and council has been fantastic. There’s been little turnover, they’ve been very open-minded and easy to work with, and very receptive to what we’re doing and how to do it. I can’t complain.”
As a senior in high school, Broz learned the value of hard work.
“I did well enough at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo showing steers, pigs, and lambs that I earned enough money to go to college,” he said.
Broz finished eighth in his class at Paint Rock High School.
“I made the Top 10 in my class,” he exclaimed. There was only 13 in his graduating class.
Paint Rock had a population of 256 at the time and sits outside of San Angelo.
He owns a 230-acre farm in that area and his brother runs it for him now.
Gary farmed and ranched in West Texas outside of San Angelo before launching his professional career in city government in 1987 in the city of Brady, Texas — literally in the heart of Texas.
“I needed a job. It was tough making ends meet back in those days,” he said.
He happened to know some of the guys on the Brady city council.
“They called the job a purchasing agent, but I was over the water department, the cemetery, the parks, I rode the trash truck. I did whatever had to be done to make things work,” he laughed. “I climbed poles, but I’ll never do that again.”
While he was in Brady, he served under nine city managers in 10 years. He worked his way up to assistant city manager.
In financial trouble, the city council was prepared to declare bankruptcy.
Broz sat on the back row of a packed city council. His friend next to him poked him in the ribs and Broz blurted out, “Don’t!” real loud.
Council members asked him if he had something to say.
He really did, but he didn’t.
After 10 years of working in Brady, that night he ended up being appointed as interim city manager. He had to lay off 27 city employees. He had no staff.
“It was a really tough situation,” he recalled.
He was eventually named the city manager and spent three years in leadership. He helped the city get back on good financial footing and in the process was able to rehire 20 of those he had laid off.
“That was one of my proudest moments,” he said.
He left Brady and took a job in Port Lavaca, Texas, in November of 2000 where he was city manager. In November of 2009, he earned the opportunity to come to Liberty, Texas, and has been the city manager since.
“Liberty has been good to me,” he said.
The thing he will miss the most?
“My staff,” he said.
He and his wife will celebrate 39 years of marriage.
In his spare time, he will work on his Tonka toys. Broz takes them apart, sands them down, repaints and refinishes them and then puts them back together again.
“I probably have about 1,000 Tonka trucks,” he said with a laugh.
He has a shop at his new house in Columbus where he can work on them.
“It’s relaxing for me,” he said. “It’s my recreation.”
They’ve been apartment living since they purchased their home in Columbus.
Now, he’ll have a home for Georgia and his Tonka trucks.