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Parks director writes pointed letter to city council

July 28, 2015 By:George Boehme

Local News

NOTE: Tim O’Connor, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of West University Place, wrote this letter to the West University Place City Council today. We received this letter through the Texas Open Government Act. InstantNewsWestU.com is publishing the letter in its entirety.

July 28, 2015

Mayor and City Council of West University Place
3800 University
West University Place, Texas 77025

Dear Honorable Mayor and City Councilors.

It is with all due respect and admittedly some trepidation that I have prepared this letter to you. Please know that I speak exclusively for myself and have not collaborated with or speak on the behalf of any residents, my superior, peers or subordinates in composing this letter.

In consideration of the magnitude of the discussions and ultimately the decisions that you as a group are undertaking in regard to Michael Ross’s future with the city, I am compelled to share with you my perspective. I’m somewhat comfortable doing so because during my tenure with the city I have had the pleasure of working with each of you on many different municipal matters.

Burt, you were mayor when Michael hired me in 2004 and I served at your and your councils pleasure in assessing the condition of the city’s recreational facilities, the efficiencies and effectiveness of staff in planning and implementing a variety of recreational activities and special events and in further developing and maintaining the city’s park system. These efforts ultimately resulted in preparing a municipal bond election that was the beginning of significant improvement to the overall structure and operations of the Parks and Recreation Department. You recently served on the Parks Board, 2013-2015, and played a role in the recent Park Master Plan update.

Brennan, you were on the Parks Board when I began my tenure with the city and served on the Rice Pocket Park Citizens Task Force that ultimately resulted in Friends Park being designed, constructed and dedicated in 2007. You have also represented the residents of the 3700 block of Rice in matters relative to Tri-Sports use of the WUE Campus for many years and we have worked together in addressing those concerns.

Bob, you were mayor in arguably the most significant period of history in the WUP Parks and Recreation Departments existence. You and your council initiated the 2008 municipal bond election and subsequently championed the efforts in constructing the WUP Recreation Center, Colonial Park Family Aquatic and Tennis complex and the renovations of the Senior Center, Community Building and Scout House. Your vision and support of Michael leading a Construction Manager at Risk method of facilitating these projects allowed for all of them to come in under budget and ahead of schedule.

Susan, you served on the Friends Board during the first several years of my tenure with the city and were instrumental in securing and realizing the Lewis Family Charitable Foundations $500,000.00 matching funds, which ultimately resulted in the design and construction of the WUP Recreation Center and Colonial Park Family Aquatic and Tennis complex coming to fruition. During your tenure as Mayor Pro-Tem, 2011-2015, you served as the council liaison to the Friends Board and were in large part responsible for the further redevelopment of many WUP parks and the growth of the very diverse line-up of recreational and leisure offerings the community enjoys today.

Mardi, you served on the Parks Board for six years during my tenure and provided staff with the benefit of your perspective as a program participant, championed the departments recycling initiatives and advocated for the need for maintaining and acquiring additional open green space. You also served on what I consider to be the most important citizen’s task force in the history of the WUP Parks and Recreation Department, the Recreational Facilities Task Force. Your efforts, in concert with those of Russ Schulze and Janine Schuppert, led to previous city councils, Friends Boards, Senior Boards, Parks Boards and staff facilitating the 2008 municipal bond election, which in turn funded the $17M construction and renovation of the city’s recreational facilities.

In early 2004 Michael afforded me the opportunity to come to work for West University Place, the city in which I resided as a youth, and a place with many residents that I to this day hold dear. Michael explained to me that his goal was to make West University Place the absolute best city in Texas and that his expectations of me were to grow the parks and recreation department via excellence in customer service, service delivery and eventually in constructing, operating and maintaining state-of-the-art recreational facilities and parks. I have tremendous respect for Michael, both as a person and as a manager. I have learned a great deal under his administration and will be forever grateful for his patience, support, guidance and mentorship in helping me to grow as a department director and as a person. He is an exceptional leader and one of the best city managers I have had the pleasure to work for during my 38+ years of municipal service. Michael has recruited and nurtured an administrative team that collectively has well over 300 years of proven excellence in municipal government experience, who I feel happen to respect and work quite well with one-another. This was not accidental or incidental, but rather a very well thought out and implemented vision for West University Place and a testament to Michael’s professionalism, experience and managerial skills. The entire administrative team is well thought of among their colleagues’, and most all either have and/or currently hold significant leadership positions within their professional organizations, which brings the added bonus of a professional network that covers Texas and in some cases the nation to the benefit of the city.

Subsequently, Michael and our city councils have supported the directors in terms of providing them with the funding and support to secure top shelf professional staffs and the equipment and “tools” to implement the goals associated with making West University Place the residence of choice by many of Houston’s top medical, law, banking, academic, oil & gas and a host of other professionals and a multiple award winning city.

I urge you to take a moment and reflect back on the many ways in which West University Place has positively changed since 2001, especially under your leadership. I can speak to the changes I have observed and been a part of since Michael hired me in 2004, and it is with great confidence that I state that there are only a handful of cities in America that can boast more productive, effective and well planned levels of municipal service. Is staff perfect on all fronts and is there no room for improvement, absolutely not. However, I believe that staff has demonstrated they are dedicated to serving at the pleasure of the electorate and every resident of the city. Obviously over at least the past 15 years the city’s elected officials have demonstrated a total commitment to improving the city’s streets, drainage and water infrastructures, recreational facilities, police station, city hall and town center, and have done so by means of the most prudent fiscal management possible. West University Place is without a doubt an “employer of choice” and I sense that staff is extremely grateful and appreciative of the competitive salaries, benefits and most importantly the pleasant working environment and culture we are afforded

In closing, the question that I, and I believe a majority of the city workforce, can’t answer is why has discontinuing Michael’s employment as city manager become necessary? From my perspective, and granted that is without benefit of the insight you as a council has, I am at a loss to understand what is “broken”. Up until the recent talk of terminating Michael’s employment, morale and productivity among city personnel was consistently at extraordinary high levels. I now find myself spending time keeping up the morale and subsequently the performance levels of my department’s personnel for the first time in my tenure with the city. I feel great personal anxiety due to the uncertainty of the city managers fate. I’m afraid that if Michael were to leave West University Place, and I know for a fact that he desires to continue his service to the community, that it could very well lead to a significant exodus of the current departmental leadership and many at the divisional leadership level, some 80% whom are currently eligible to retire. While the city would no doubt recover from any circumstance, I’m afraid the recovery would not come before a significant setback in services and service delivery to our residents was realized, not to mention the enormous expense involved with so many departures in a short period of time.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this letter. Please understand that this communication is not intended to be anything other than me simply sharing my thoughts, feelings and observations, as I have always felt comfortable speaking freely with each of you. In addition, I will completely respect the decision should you collectively determine that the matter of Michael’s future as WUP’s City Manager is  not my concern and you chose not to provide me with a response, but please know that my concern is  with and for the residents that I truly enjoy serving and the fine people I have the pleasure of working  with in fulfilling that service.

Respectfully yours,

Tim O’Connor
Director of Parks and Recreation
City of West University Place, Texas

13 Responses to “Parks director writes pointed letter to city council”

  1. Rick Spencer Says:

    A well-written and heart felt letter, Tim. Thanks for having the best interests of West University in mind. I believe you have summarized the feelings of the majority of the residents, both in the service of the members of our council and the respect for our City staff. Let’s continue the good work together.

  2. Linda Lewis Says:

    I greatly admire Tim O’Connor’s courage in speaking out. He is right on with his comments. There are many things Michael Ross has done well, and one of them is to bring on board an incredibly competent team of managers. In all my years in West U as a resident and committed volunteer, I’ve never seen the city operate at a higher level. Whatever the council’s beef with Mr. Ross, it’s time they let it go and move on to matters of real importance.

  3. Sue Hanna Says:

    Great letter Tim. If you believe this strongly about Michael Ross, so do I. I have been on the Friends of West U Parks Board since 2000, serving as treasurer, PLB Ball Chairman 2006, and PLB Honorary Ball Chair 2015. Tim is one of the most hard working, honest people I have met. So if he believes in the administration, so do I.

  4. Jim Shields Says:

    What is remarkable about all that has taken place since three days into the term of the new council is the total silence from all of the slate’s backers.

    Not a peep from anyone who wants to see Ross get fired.

    The slate has never said why they want to fire Ross.

    Burt said he spoke to 2,000 people who wanted to fire Ross. You would think he could scare up a dozen or so who would say so now.

    Where are they?

  5. Lucille Gallman Says:

    Good News: The West University Little League Seniors will be in Bangor Maine starting Saturday, August 1 defending its Senior League World Series championship title. The final game will be played at noon, Saturday August 8 and will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

  6. Will Bertron Says:

    Thanks Tim for your commitment to West U and for your courage to share your thoughts. You and your department are fine examples of the exceptional personnel from which our City benefits, and to think that any of them are at risk is unsettling.

    Note that the changed mood of the City’s hard workers has been affected not by anything Michael Ross did or did not do in the past but rather what several of the current Councilmen have done just recently. Hear me guys?

    There is a big picture that needs to be taken into consideration. And a Council that needs to learn to listen.

    • A. D. Says:

      Tim is such a brownnoser! He is only trying to keep his high salary, while he sits at a computer most of the time. Because of Michael Ross, and Tim, citizens are harassed, go without city services, and are targeted for changes in policy that restrict civil rights. Our city deserves better leadership, not a dictatorship.

  7. Lucille Gallman Says:

    That is the best letter of recommendation I have ever read. You all seem to feel very strongly about Michael Ross staying on as City Manager. I got the impression that he went above and beyond regarding the planned Super Block with details regarding private property that should scare any homeowner in West U. I notice that one of my neighbors in West U who lived in an old house (1930s) like mine, quickly sold, probably while she could make the decision and get the most money.
    Also, regarding the Council’s new City Manager preference, in a Fort Bend paper, the Missouri City officials in discussing the candidates for their city manager position said “due to the fact that city councils have frequent turnover, it’s not uncommon for city managers to be voted out of a position.” I think Michael Ross would have been selected. They have two good candidates still interested, but I think they will pick the West Point Grad who would be a good choice for West U, which appears to have become a battlefield.

  8. Duke Cancelmo Says:

    Dear Tim, Thank you very much for this wonderful letter. You ask appropriate questions and express concerns with the spirit of a servant leader. Rotary International has a 4 way Test – 1. Is it the TRUTH?
    2. Is it FAIR to All Concerned? 3. Will it Build GOODWILL and Better Friendships? 4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to All Concerned? As a Rotarian, you are very familiar with the 4 way test and your letter is a text book example of using it to achieve better outcomes… I hope that in the very near future our city council reflects on your letter in the spirit of the 4 way test and move forward accordingly. Best, Duke

  9. don brown Says:

    Let’s all thank Mr O’Connor. Sadly we seem to have elected a group with an agendas of vendettas. West U is politically conservative but my worst fear is our chosen leaders are assuming the ill conceived thinking of many in the Tea Party. Let’s all remember that those chosen leaders can be unchosen.
    Mr Ross is OUR city manager not theirs.
    We put their ‘vote for me’ signs in our yards now let’s put KEEP MR ROSS signs in our yards.

  10. Brokelyn Says:

    Thank you, Tim, for stepping up.

    Council, we are still waiting for you to present your side of this matter.

  11. Steven Segal Says:

    Thanks Tim, for having the courage to make your views known to this Council. You are supported by every former West University Place Council member I have talked to, or heard about — with the exception of “slate” members Burt Ballanfant and Bob Kelley. I sincerely hope the members of the “slate” will not remain deaf, dumb and blind to what they are doing to our City. Firing Michael Ross will adversely affect all residents of West U — now and in the future.

  12. Tangley Resident Says:

    I think what O’Connor is saying is that if they fire the city manager, the whole group leaves. It is not hieroglyphics
    .

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