By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (February 2, 2017) – Allen Barnes has 20 years of city management experience, most recently in Gonzales.
Barnes, who has been selected to serve as in the city of Stephenville’s next city administrator, was one of four finalists named on January 24 following a nationwide search by Strategic Government Resources (SGR).
His offer of employment was confirmed by the city council on Wednesday, and local leaders agree he was the best candidate for the job and the city of Stephenville.
“We had a very competitive group of highly qualified candidates to review and interview during the search process,” Mayor Kenny Weldon said in making the announcement. “This is a very important decision for our citizens and we spent many hours reviewing resumes, conducting interviews and discussing the various attributes of each candidate. The city council is extremely impressed with both the professional record and friendly personality of Mr. Barnes. He is a skilled and respected professional city administrator who will bring a tremendous amount of value and experience to our community.”
Meanwhile, concerns raised prior to – and since – his hiring point to potential issues with Barnes’ last job.
He and the city of Gonzales parted ways last October after, according to the Gonzales Inquirer, Mayor Connie Kacir received “numerous complaints that involve unacceptable conduct with our city employees.”
Those concerns reportedly led to Barnes being placed on administrative leave in September and a more than two-hour executive session discussion prior to his departure the following month. Per his contract with the city of Gonzales, Barnes was provided an almost $45,000 severance package, and both parties signed an agreement saying they would not make disparaging comments.
Still, when contacted by The Flash on day after his hiring, Barnes was up front about the issue, saying he wasn’t happy about it, but could not change the past.
“In my business, one of the first thing you learn is a joke about there being two types of city administrators – those who have been fired and those who are going to be fired,” Barnes said.
All jokes aside, a study published by the Local Governance Research Lab at Florida State University says just that. Findings reported in “Turnover among City Managers: The Role of Political and Economic Change” say city managers’ careers are subject to political and economic forces in the communities they serve.
“When there is substantial change on the city council, the likelihood of turnover in the city’s top administrative post increases,” the report states.
According to Gonzales area news, Mayor Kacir ran unopposed in the May 2016 election and began her service in June.
In Stephenville, council members Carla Trussell and Brady Pendleton said the council was aware of potential issues with Barnes’ past employment and questions about the issues were raised.
“The issues are ones we knew about from the beginning,” Pendleton said. “I would like to personally assure citizens that SGR and the city council did its due diligence when considering Mr. Barnes’ employment.”
Trussell confirmed discussions with Barnes and representatives of SGR about his previous employment and said she had no reservations in hiring him.
Trussell said each of the job candidates had issues with their past employment. She also said it was determined that negative social media posts about Barnes were made by the family member of a former employee of the city of Gonzales.
Meanwhile, Pendleton offered a unique perspective after serving as city attorney in other cities and representing former city administrators involved in employment related legal battles.
“A lot of times, good city administrators are fired just because of politics,” Pendleton said. “I feel the issue with Mr. Barnes in Gonzales related to the nature of the business, an issue with happenings in the area.”
Pendleton said while it was common for city managers to hold their positions for many years in the past, more recent trends show tenures of three to five years.
As far as Gonzales is concerned, Barnes said other than a city manager who was employed eight or nine years in the 1970s, he was the longest serving administrator. Barnes said when he submitted his application to SGR, two of his professional references came from council members there.
Prior to taking that job in 2011, Barnes served as city manager in Sachse, Liberty and Whitesboro. Before beginning his career in city administration, Barnes served as deputy sheriff in Collin County for 13 years.
He holds a master’s degree in public affairs and a bachelor’s degree in psychology, both from the University of Texas at Dallas.
“I am truly excited to be part of the future of this great community,” Barnes said. “Stephenville is an impressive town, and I can’t wait to get here and become an active part as we plan for the future.”
The new administrator, who brought his wife Brenda to the Wednesday meeting, told The Flash he has already fallen in love with Stephenville. Barnes said it was exactly the type of city where he wanted to live and work, and the relocation puts him closer to his hometown of Sherman and in proximity to his sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren who reside in Abilene and the Dallas area.
Barnes is expected to begin his duties on February 16, but first plans to attend the February 7 meeting of Stephenville City Council.