Three assistant city managers were appointed and the top candidates for city secretary and city attorney were also named during Tuesday night’s regular Sulphur Springs City Council meeting.
City Manager Marc Maxwell noted the council held an executive session just prior to the start of the 7 p.m. meeting. He said the recommendations were part of long term personnel planning for the city. Maxwell stated that the city has been working on “succession planning,” that is finding suitable replacements to fill certain positions when key personnel retire in the coming year or foreseeable future. This will make the transition go smoothly or at least much more smoothly.
For instance, Maxwell said, City Secretary Gale Roberts gave the counsel her notice of planned retirement in December 2021. More than an year in advance, this gives the city plenty of time to appoint a candidate and allow that individual to train with Roberts. The city attorney and others are also planning to retire at the end of the year. Maxwell said he plans to retire in seven years, and if things continue on track will recommend the City Council at that time appoint one of three key department heads to lead the city.
Maxwell anticipates officially asking the City Council later this year to appoint Natalie Darrow to serve as city secretary and Nate Smith to serve as city attorney. These changes can be factored into the upcoming budget.
Darrow has worked for the City of Sulphur Springs for 25 years, starting in records at the task force, and now is the records manager and computer systems specialist at Sulphur Springs Police Department. She has been working periodically alongside Roberts, learning some of the duties, and has even filled in for her on occasion while the city secretary was on vacation.
Nate Smith practices family law, civil litigation, personal injury and corporate law alongside his father, Phil Smith at Smith & Smith Law Firm. He too has begun working some with City Attorney Jim McLeroy. He knows the city’s issues, knowledge that goes beyond just the law but the ins and outs of the city, including personnel. Maxwell noted that Nate Smith seems a “natural fit” and has already been taking some of the responsibility from McLeroy.
As for his planned retirement in 7 years, Maxwell would like to have things in place so that the council members, if they choose, can select from three top choices. While there are a lot of city department heads who would be capable of serving as a good city manager, Maxwell said, he recommends selecting from the three directors he plans to prepare for the position. He also asked that they reclassify their job titles accordingly to assistant city managers, to reflect those duties.
In accordance with the request, the City Council officially named Human Resources Director Gordon Frazier, Finance Director Lesa Smith and Community Development Director Tory Niewiadomski as assistant city managers moving forward.
“I think they are three fine choices to replace me. I’d like to introduce them to areas of the city they may not have had before,” Maxwell said, noting each exhibits good judgement and managerial skills.
Frazier has been employed with the City of Sulphur Springs for more than 30 years, working his way up through the ranks to become HR director, and knows more about city operations than almost anyone else employed with the city, Maxwell said.
Lesa Smith was born and raised locally, and also worked her way up the city ranks as well. She has, Maxwell said, “done an outstanding job as finance director. On every one of the assignments I have given her, she has exceeded my expectations.”
While Niewiadomski is not originally from the area, he has acclimated well, Maxwell noted, adding that Niewiadomski “has a very broad view of the city, being in community development,” an asset for a city manager.
Maxwell said the assistant city managers over the next seven years will have occasion to fill in for Maxwell when he is on vacation or has to be out of the office. He plans to give them “lots of special projects” so each will have “a little fun on the hot seat.” He said any of the three are capable now to assume the duties of city manager, but he plans to work more with then in the coming years so that they are even more capable to step up when he does retire as city manager.