It’s been a year since I came to Victoria to take on the role of city manager, and both the job and the city have been great. My wife and I love the fact that Victoria is a small enough community to feel family-oriented but big enough to have amenities similar to those found in larger communities: a beautiful downtown and park on the river, performing arts centers that host our symphony and other programs, a zoo and plenty of restaurants and retail options, to name a few.
I know that our community would like to see Victoria expand what it has to offer while preserving our history and small-town feel. A big part of my job is to align the City operation with the community’s goals and to make sure we have the right tools, structures, programs and personnel in place to meet those goals. These goals are captured in our 2035 Comprehensive Plan, and we cannot address these challenges and goals without embarking on a 21st-century approach.
One example of this is the increased importance of communication. We live in a world where people have constant access to information, and they have a right to expect the same level of accessibility from their local government. This applies to information about routine activity such as road closures, but it also includes being clear and forthcoming about big-picture strategies and initiatives. We owe it to the community to explain how our daily operations and changes we are implementing will enhance livability in Victoria.
Another important part of being a 21st-century organization is being intentional about the ways we collect and use data. I believe our management decisions and policy recommendations to City Council need to be based on data because data is factual and unbiased. As an example, the City is currently embarking on its first data-driven Street Assessment Study, utilizing technology to grade the condition of all the streets in our community. Additionally, Public Works recently began tracking pothole repairs in more detail than ever before, which will help us better identify troubled areas and master the art of pothole repairs. Without properly tracking data, how can we know if what we are doing is truly making a difference?
A 21st-century organization should also have a culture of constant evolution. The world around us changes every day, and as such, we need to constantly reassess the way we do things. My first year has provided plenty of opportunities to do this, predominately through organizational restructurings and executive turnover. When a person moves on, we have an opportunity to look at that role and determine if it might be better to divide it into two positions or combine it with an existing job function. This allows us to be intentional in matching community expectations with our structure. For example, we restructured personnel away from Parks & Recreation to create a Community Appearance Division dedicated solely to beautification. We split the functions of Communications and the Convention & Visitors Bureau to better serve both audiences. Throughout these changes, we’ve maintained a healthy balance between internal and external candidates to build a leadership team with diverse experiences.
During the next couple of years, we’re going to continue focusing on our 2035 Comprehensive Plan by creating a downtown master plan and updating our master plans for parks and drainage. Other studies are in the works as well, and many of these initiatives will create opportunities for engagement and ownership amongst the community.
I’m proud of everything City staff have done to reimagine possibilities and enhance livability in this city. I look forward to continuing to work with this community to help Victoria be the best that it can be.
Jesús A. Garza is the city manager for the City of Victoria.