As Fort Worth’s new city manager prepares to start work June 30, he should know that the expectations are high. After all, even his selection process took on an unusual added measure to get the right person for the job.
The City Council, after deciding that the first group of four finalists for the position had no one who was “the perfect fit for Fort Worth,” authorized a second search for candidates, ultimately choosing David Cooke, retired county manager of Wake County, N.C.
It will be some time before we know for sure if Cooke is a perfect fit, but he comes with the resumé and the experience that should qualify him to lead the city at time when it is experiencing rapid growth and consistent new challenges.
A director of a Raleigh engineering and consulting firm at the time of his selection, the new manager’s record uniquely meets the council’s recommended qualifications for the city’s chief executive: government and business experience, proven innovator, fiscally responsible, knowledgeable about pension reforms and technologically savvy.
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All of those skills and qualities will be necessary as Cooke will be joining the city as the council begins to finalize a new budget for next year, and at a time when both the police and firefighters associations are suing over changes in the pension fund.
In fact, he will be arriving two weeks after the release of a report that shows the Fort Worth pension fund’s unfunded liability, despite recent benefits cuts, has increased from $1.07 billion in 2013 to $1.12 billion in 2014.
Cooke’s experience with transportation issues in North Carolina will also be a benefit as Fort Worth continues to struggle with how to build, and pay for, more and better mass transit facilities.
The manager says he understands that there will be a learning curve as he gets to know the city, but he’s fortunate that there is a capable staff in place ready to assist with that, as well as retiring City Manager Tom Higgins who has offered to help in any way.
Welcome aboard, Mr. City Manager.
Of course you should be warned that the City Council and Fort Worth residents will be expecting a lot of work for that $315,000-a-year base salary.
No doubt you will earn every penny of it.