FORT WORTH — Mark McDaniel, city manager of Tyler, is credited with improving efficiencies, balancing a tight budget and bringing jobs to the east Texas city.Along with the other three finalists for Fort Worth city manager, McDaniel interviews with city council members TuesdayMcDaniel, 53, said his greatest strength is fiscal planning and management.He says Tyler is different from other cities because its general obligation debt was eliminated in 2008, the year he moved up to the top position from deputy city manager. McDaniel said the city pays cash for capital improvements projects and has a city property tax rate of 22 cents per $100 of assessed value, one of the lowest in the state.Mayor Barbara Bass, elected in 2008, said he always presented sound budgets, even during the recession. “The biggest challenge was maintaining all of the critical services, knowing what projects could be put on hold and making our budgets balance,” Bass said.The city eliminated 22 positions from the budget after fiscal year 2010 and as many as 140 were frozen at the height of the recession, according to a city report. “If there is a weakness it is probably that he expects as much from everyone else than he expects from himself,” Bass said. “He sets the bar high and that is both a strength and a weakness, since not everyone wants to respond to that level. But he has a team and a culture where our people get excited about what they can do to improve the community,” Bass said. McDaniel received an “outstanding” rating in his 2013 performance evaluation from the city council in December, which included a raise from a base salary of $195,000 to $205,000. Bass said McDaniel was responsible for starting the city’s Lean Six Sigma program, a national program meant to eliminate waste and find efficiencies, by bringing the idea to council and getting it off the ground. Started in 2010, the program has saved the city over $4 million. Fort Worth adopted the Lean Six Sigma program, in October 2013. McDaniel said he is ready to face Fort Worth’s challenges — building the program, the need for technology innovations, balancing the budget and addressing transportation and water needs. “We would gear up to execute the bond program and finish projects from the old program, and really dig into the budget and finances to see how we fund the government and look at where we have the opportunity for reductions,” McDaniel said.Tom Mullins, president and chief executive officer of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce and the Tyler Economic Development Council, said McDaniel understands the mechanics of economic development and is a savvy negotiator.The most recent example, Mullins said, was when the city and chamber worked together to bring in Centene, a healthcare company. The business provides 325 jobs, with the potential to double that in five to seven years. Tyler is about one-seventh the size of Fort Worth in population, but McDaniel said the two cities face many of the same issues including public transportation needs, economic development, water needs and conservation. He said he can draw from his experience as assistant city manger in Corpus Christi, similar in land size to Fort Worth. In addition, Tyler’s population swells from 99,000 residents to about 270,000 people during the day, McDaniel said, because the town is an economic hub for east Texas. “The principles are the same, though the scale is different, which is why you have to break it down and surround yourself with a good team. I don’t have any qualms or concerns about my ability to make the change,” he said.Tyler was also the first city to earn the Leadership Award–Gold Level for transparency from the Texas Comptroller in 2011 for enhancing the use of social media, online services and customer response. “Fort Worth is pretty much unlike other Metroplex cities or other Texas cities in that it has a real sense of community and almost small-town feel, despite its large and rapidly growing size,” said McDaniel, who has family in Fort Worth including his mother, 82.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst