Gary McKamie started his career in Euless as a police dispatcher 42 years ago, long before Dallas/Fort Worth Airport opened and Northeast Tarrant County experienced any serious growing pains.
McKamie worked his way up the ranks to police chief and deputy city manager before taking becoming city manager in 2007, a job he stepped down from last week.
His said he is retiring to spend more time with his family, including six grandchildren. He last day was Friday and the city closed its offices to celebrate his contributions to Euless.
“This is a great community,” McKamie said. “I always thought that Euless was a special place. I’ve had opportunities to go elsewhere, but I thought I belonged in Euless. ... I thoroughly enjoyed the work, and I will miss the personal relationships. It’s not just a job when you get to know the employees.”
For those who worked closely with McKamie, his departure will leave a void that will be hard to fill.
Mayor Linda Martin, who was first elected to the City Council in 2004, said she is a “better person” because of McKamie.
“This is a big transition; Gary has given his whole life to Euless,” Martin said.
But, she said, “it’s time for him to enjoy his family. He’s earned his retirement.”
And during its Jan. 27 meeting, the city council voted unanimously to promote deputy city manager Loretta Getchell to replace McKamie.
Euless has a history of promoting from within, Martin said.
‘We will see his footprint’
Martin said she admired McKamie for coming up with solutions that others never thought of. For example, there was a proposal for a subdivision to build two-story homes behind single-story homes, which would have resulted in the people living in the two-story homes looking directly into their neighbors’ backyards.
Martin said McKamie worked to resolve the problem by suggesting that some of the two-story homes could be one-story and that some of the other two-story homes could be relocated to other areas of the subdivision.
Martin also praised McKamie for his work with the faith-based 6Stones nonprofit to start revitalization projects in older neighborhoods where residents were having trouble making home repairs.
“So much of what has gone on is Gary’s vision. We will see his footprint years down the road,” Martin said.
Deputy city manager Loretta Getchell said, “I can’t imagine coming to work at City Hall in February without him.”
Getchell described how McKamie often went to someone’s home even on nights and weekends if there was a problem with a cracked sidewalk or another issue involving the city.
“McKamie always returned phone calls, often the same day,” Getchell said. “He has been an incredible mentor to all of us; we will miss him.”
Friendships are what matter
McKamie is modest about his many accomplishments, saying that he would rather remember the long-standing friendships.
“There is a Mayberry aspect to Euless,” he said.
When he was police chief, McKamie initiated many projects such as the citizens police academy, town hall meetings and building a new police headquarters.
As city manager, McKamie oversaw many commercial projects including the Glade Parks and River Walk developments.
Glade Parks is a 93-acre residential and shopping development near the Colleyville border. Businesses that will locate in Glade Park should be announced soon, McKamie said.
Euless has pumped more than $5 million into the infrastructure, only to see the original developer, Rubloff Development Group in Rockford, Ill., file for bankruptcy. A real estate firm has since taken over the project.
He also worked to start water reclamation, which brings recycled water for irrigation to apartment complexes in northeast Euless.
Helping the Tongans
Because the southern portion of DFW Airport, which includes the central car rental facility, is in the Euless city limits, city coffers have greatly benefited from tax revenue. More than $54 million in car rental taxes has been brought in since 2000.
But even more of an impact has been felt with the job opportunities at the airport, which resulted in Euless becoming home to one of the largest Tongan communities in the United States.
McKamie said while cities may oppose diversity, it’s “part of the fabric” of Euless. That can be seen around the city and at Trinity High School, where the Tongans have played a huge role in the success of the Trojans’ football team.
McKamie was praised for working with the Tongan community and for helping to create the Euless Tongan Community Committee, which meets quarterly.
Ofa Faiva-Siale, projects coordinator for the parks department and a liaison between the city and the Tongan community, said McKamie was instrumental in helping to create the committee.
“Gary is very patient with the difference in cultures,” she said.
Faiva-Siale said McKamie worked with the Tongan community when there were large funeral gatherings and other cultural events to make sure that they understood how to comply with the city’s ordinances.
“Gary is gentle and kind when he needs to be and firm when he needs to be,” Faiva-Siale said.
Former Mayor Mary Lib Saleh, who retired last year after 21 years, said she admired McKamie for being able to laugh at himself and for his willingness to find compromises. He was also compassionate toward employees.
When the economy hit bottom in 2008, Euless had to curtail employee raises and make other painful cutbacks, she said.
“Some employees took early retirement, and their positions weren’t filled. Gary took on the extra load; it made us all feel better,” Saleh said.
Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696
The career of Gary McKamie
1973 - McKamie was hired as a Euless police dispatcher.
1974 - Hired as police officer.
1993 - Named police chief.
1999 - Named deputy city manager.
2007 - Named city manager.
2015 - Announced his retirement.