AP NEWS

Strong manager can help strengthen PA

February 27, 2019

Port Arthur City Council members are about to make perhaps the most important decision of their terms — selecting a new city manager. They need to choose the best possible candidate if they want their city government to help Port Arthur get better and stronger, or continue the unsatisfactory status quo.

That should be understood by all members, but the council does not have a good record on this issue.

First, the council members who were seated in 2017 got rid of the last city manager, Brian McDougal, who had been specifically hired as a reformer three years previously to fix a broken system.

McDougal did a lot, such as cracking down on city employees who were using city credit cards to gas up their own vehicles and cutting off water service to the many residents who would not pay their bills. In doing so, he ruffled feathers at City Hall and in the community and was eventually forced out.

Then, council members kept this job vacant for 16 months, entrusting these important duties to an interim figure. That’s inexcusable. An organization of 650 employees with a budget of $141 million needs a permanent, visionary leader to make sure that every responsibility is met as professionally as possible.

At long last, the council is fulfilling this basic duty. Many of the problems that McDougal took on remain — and a few have returned.

Council members are considering four finalists for the job, and they should dismiss any temptation to hire a passive person whom they can control — or discourage from asking too many questions.

Council members should be honest about the city they love: Are they satisfied with how city services are delivered in Port Arthur now? Could City Hall do more for its residents, give them more opportunities for success and fulfillment? Is the city attractive now to new residents and businesses?

In every case, we think Port Arthur could stand some improvement. In fact, we think most Port Arthur residents would agree. A dynamic, professional manager can do a lot to help the city move forward. In turn, a lackluster place-holder would perpetuate the problems.

This hire will be a turning point for Port Arthur. The council should take advantage of this opportunity and aim high. This is not a time for complacency or a safe choice. It is an occasion that demands a bold surge into a brighter future. We urge the council to step up to this challenge and choose a winner for Port Arthur.