Devine City Council decides to pull back on search for permanent City Administrator

Wyatt and Carter Noll, starting 1st and 3rd grade, are all smiles on the first day of school at Natalia ISD. More back to school pics on page 14.

By Kathleen Calalme
In an interesting turn of events, Devine City Council decided to temporarily “terminate and stop advertising” in their search for a City Administrator until further notice, or September 18th, on a Debbie Randall/ Flipper Vega motion.
The motion passeda 4 (Randall, Vega, Hernandez, and Pyron) to 1, with Josh Ritchey voting against stopping the progress.
“I would like to terminate advertising for the city administration position until further notice or until September,” said Debbie Randall, District 5 Councilwoman.
“Not until September…?” questioned Interim City Admin. Dora Rodriguez.
“I think you need a time, September 15 or so,” suggested Mayor Butch Cook.
“Okay, September 18”, Randall replied.
After executive session at 8:11 pm the council reconvened and the mayor announced no action was taken during the executive session item, “Personnel matters- discuss and consider City Administrator issues.”
Randall immediately made the motion to terminate advertising for a new city administrator.
“The motion is to discontinue advertising for a city admin until Sept 18”, said Cook. “Any discussion? Already done?”
Without any further discussion on why, Flipper seconded Randall’s motion and the motion carried with 4 ayes and 1 nay.
Council and mayor responses
After the meeting, The News offered each council person and the mayor a chance to express their opinion on this new turn of events in order to help the public understand why they are holding back on their search for a City Administrator.
They were given the opportunity to elaborate on their “personal reasoning or opinion” for or against this motion to terminate the search, until Sept 18, about 48 days.
Debbie Randall, District 5 response: “I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful, but my motion was based off of what was discussed in executive session, something I cannot discuss in public without breaking the trust of council”.
Josh Ritchey, District 4 response: “Officially, I can’t share what happened in the closed session. In my opinion, it is extremely irresponsible to cease the search for a city administrator with our current lack of staffing and high level of debt. This reminds me of when Mayor Thompson simply stopped releasing resumes to council. While Mayor Cook is releasing resumes, the council has chosen not to interview until sometime in September, if I recall correctly.”
Stacy Pyron, District 3 response: “While I can’t comment on discussions in executive session, I will say that I believe this was the best decision at this time. This is also temporary, and the position will be advertised again in September.”
Flipper Vega, District 1- no response as of press time.
Michael Hernandez, District 2- “All I can say is the only reason we put the thing on hold for hiring a city manager is because of budget. Interviewing 2-3 candidates in one day will take up so much time during budget session. The last 4 people we interviewed took almost 1 1/2 hours each and that was just 2 interviews per council session.”
Butch Cook, Mayor- “It is my personal opinion that we should continuously and aggressively pursue hiring a competent and qualified City Administrator and it should be our top priority. In our style of government, the City Administrator is the most important person of all – more so than the Mayor or any individual Council member and until we accomplish this goal we will just be treading water.”
Next on agenda was the budget workshop, something the council will continue to meet often to decide on priorities, the budget and tax rate.
New Council and Mayor suggesting changes to several procedures
The new City of Devine Council and Mayor are voicing some concerns over old procedures and suggesting new ones. Some would require changing of the ordinances, others not.
Mayor Butch Cook just took office three months ago in May 2023 as well as council members Stacy Pyron and Michael Hernandez.
Josh Ritchey was elected to the council last year.
Flipper Vega has served several terms as well as Debbie Randall.