Seven years ago, Charmelle Garrett became the first woman appointed as Victoria’s city manager.
This year, she was recognized by a statewide city government association for her public service in that position.
Garrett was named the administrator of the year for 2018 by the Texas City Management Association.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Garrett said. “It’s almost overwhelming to be honored like that.”
For Garrett’s colleagues, the recognition serves as a message to young women in government who aspire to leadership positions.
Mindi Snyder, the city manager of El Campo, said that she nominated Garrett because she wanted to recognize her work and the work of other women in local government. Snyder and Garrett are both members of the local chapter of the group Women Leading Government.
Garrett was honored at the association’s annual conference in June. Snyder said she, Garrett and their female peers were vastly outnumbered by men at the city management conference.
“There were only a handful of us in the room that were women,” Snyder said. “To have women receive three out of the four awards, it was pretty empowering.”
Of the four individuals recognized for the public service, three were women, Snyder said.
Garrett’s colleague, Cheryl Marthiljohni, the director of human resources for Victoria’s city government, said the recognition was evidence of Garrett’s passion for public service work.
The Texas City Management Association cited Garrett’s response to an arson at the Victoria Islamic Center and her management after Hurricane Harvey struck in 2017.
Some Victoria residents faulted the city government’s response to Harvey, saying the city should have prepared better for the natural disaster.
Snyder said city managers often bear the brunt of public criticism for circumstances outside of their control, and that Garrett did “a tremendous amount” of behind-the-scenes work after Harvey devastated parts of Victoria.
“In the aftermath of the devastation of Harvey, Charmelle withstood fallout from things that didn’t go well,” the association wrote in its recognition. “She navigated herself with class during closed session reviews.”
Garrett has worked for the city of Victoria for more than 20 years, starting in the city’s human resources department.
She served as deputy city manager starting in 2006 and took over the position of city manager in 2011.
“My hope is that young ladies or women realize that you can attain whatever you want to attain –you just have to strive for it,” Garrett said about the message she hoped to send to young women in government.