Jesús Garza was chosen by elected officials as Victoria’s next city manager on Tuesday.
Garza is the current city manager in Kingsville. Garza will be Victoria’s first Hispanic city manager.
“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to bring my experiences, and hopefully what people would consider my positive energy, to Victoria to help propel Victoria forward,” Garza said after the council meeting.
Victoria’s City Council voted unanimously to approve him on Tuesday night. Garza will start May 20. He will receive an annual salary of $200,000, plus a $5,000 relocation stipend. The council confirmed his hiring in a brief meeting Tuesday night, with a few comments from council members before they took a final vote.
Council member Jan Scott was not present for the meeting, but asked Mayor Paul Polasek to read a statement expressing her support for Garza and thanking Strategic Government Resources, the firm that the city hired to help with the search. With SGR, the council narrowed down 34 applicants to a shortlist of three finalists. Along with Garza, council members interviewed Andrea Gardner, the city manager of Watauga, and John Kessel, the former city manager of Schertz. Victoria’s City Council interviewed all three candidates Thursday before a meet-and-greet with the public. Council members met in closed session Thursday to deliberate their options. They did not meet in closed session Tuesday.
Garza and his wife, Shannon Zorn-Garza, expect to move to the city in May.
Garza, 32, has been the city manager in Kingsville since 2015. The city has a population of more than 25,000 and is home to Texas A&M University-Kingsville. In the past several years, Garza said one of his major focuses was on revitalizing Kingsville’s downtown. Garza established the city’s first tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ, which helped pump a designated portion of taxes on downtown businesses into the downtown infrastructure. He also developed a master plan for the area’s future and developed new ordinances to make the area more friendly to business owners.
Garza’s other work in Kingsville included maintaining a working relationship with the local university, which has more than 9,000 students. Garza previously told the Advocate that he expected to continue working on city-university relations with the University of Houston-Victoria if he were chosen for the position.
Garza said another major focus in Kingsville was to improve the city’s infrastructure. That work included overseeing a street user fee that tacked on $5 a month to residents’ utility bills to create a new source of funding to improve the city’s aging streets.
The Brownsville native previously spent four years in the San Antonio city manager’s office, working on a number of projects. Garza said his experience in San Antonio, along with his work in Kingsville and his work in Von Ormy as the city administrator, would help him in Victoria.
“My overall experience in cities of all sizes and being exposed to all those issues, I think is a huge asset that hopefully will materialize itself in bringing fresh ideas that I’ve seen in these other places,” Garza said.
Garza has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in public administration from St. Mary’s University, along with a graduate certificate in urban and regional planning from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
City managers are hired for two-year contracts that are reviewed annually by the City Council. Victoria’s city manager leads the day-to-day operations of Victoria’s government, which includes overseeing more than 600 city employees and developing the city’s annual operating budget of more than $130 million.
Outgoing city manager Charmelle Garrett announced her retirement last year. Garrett, who took up the post in 2011, was the first woman to serve as city manager in Victoria. Her last day is April 30.