Q&A with new Yoakum city manager: Eagle Ford Shale presents challenge
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On Tuesday, the Yoakum City Council accepted the resignation of longtime city councilwoman Margie McMullen. The city charter requires a replacement be named within 30 days.
Kevin Coleman began work as the new Yoakum city manager on Monday.
Coleman, who grew up in the metropolitan Kansas City area and most recently worked as director of development services in Kerrville, takes over for longtime Yoakum city manager Calvin Cook. Cook retired this summer.
Coleman was appointed by the Yoakum City Council Nov. 9 after the town received more than 60 applications for the position.
Former city manager Al Veselka has been the interim city manager until Coleman came on board. Veselka will continue to assist Coleman in the transition through the end of the year.
Coleman has also held positions as executive director of Abilene Habitat for Humanity, city manager in Dewey, Okla., and administrative aide to the city manager in Lawrence, Kan. He is married with two daughters.
Ranging reporter Sonny Long paid the 48-year-old Coleman a visit in his new office at Yoakum City Hall.
When he stood, Coleman towered over the 6 foot 3 reporter, flashed a quick smile and offered a firm handshake.
What attracted you to this job?
I saw the position advertised through the Texas Municipal League and did some research. What attracted me in part was the overall stability of the city and the longevity of the prior city manager.
How is the diversity in your background an asset to being city manager.
I've done a little bit of a lot. I truly think of myself as someone who understands the big picture level of fairly complex issues and can make them understandable for the council to digest to make good and reasonable decisions. And then take those decisions back to guys on the ground so they can make it happen.
Talk a little about the staff at the city of Yoakum.
There is a good staff here. I was convinced of that prior to Monday, and I am more convinced now. The longevity of many of them in itself speaks to that.
I realize you've only been here four days, but what are your initial thoughts on the strengths of the city?
In terms of staff, we have some long-term folks who know their jobs and know what the expectations are and have a good feel for the community.
Where lots of cities have had to cut back and streamline, Mr. Cook kept the organization pretty streamlined to begin with, so Yoakum didn't have to suffer through that. Those are two of the city's biggest strengths. That and keeping projects going every year so little things don't turn into big things. The utilities all seem sound. Those are strengths we need to focus on continually.
What are some areas that need attention or improvement?
The big challenge out there is to react to what's going on in the Eagle Ford Shale region. Just the overall activity and demand on what we do - from traffic patterns, to the influx of new people.
I told council and staff that the next couple of years the job at hand will be to survive the increased activity, but keep our eyes on five-year and 10-year plans to make that transient activity turn into real investment in the community and take advantage of the activity long-term. Be that in the commercial base, retail or housing - this is not unique to us, but clearly something we need to stay focused on.
What are you seeing in the areas of economic development in Yoakum?
Given that we have someone with the ability of Pat Kennedy monitoring that and staying connected to that, when the opportunities hit we are in a position to take advantage of them.
So what's the first week on the job been like?
It's been a heck of a learning curve, just meeting people and identifying people and getting up to speed on ongoing issues. I can't stress enough what an asset Al Veselka has been in the transition.