Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole revealed the name of the lone finalist for city manager Thursday.
“Jared Miller is our choice,” the mayor said.
“We’ve done the negotiations, council members have given input to those negotiations, the negotiations are settled, he signed an agreement and we will take action next Tuesday,” Harpole told the Amarillo Globe-News. “He has accepted, his name is public, it’s good.”
Miller is currently city manager in San Marcos, a post he has held since 2014.
Miller told the Globe-News that he and the city are still working out negotiations for the position, saying, “I don’t know if all of the council is 100 percent on board yet, but it’s close.”
Harpole said as it stands, the compensation package being offered to Miller is less than what the previous city manager Jarett Atkinson made and the former interim city manager, Terry Childers. The exact figure wasn’t available Thursday night.
Now that a selection has been made, Councilman Elisha Demerson said he has a responsibility to make sure “we’re getting the best value.”
“Some people think at this point it should not be about the bottom line,” Demerson continued, “but I think it should always be about the bottom line.”
Asked about Miller’s ascension to sole finalist, Councilman Mark Nair said he is hoping for unanimity when it comes to approving him at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“This is an important decision for our city, and I would hope this council is completely unified when we vote,” Nair said. “He’ll bring solid leadership and insightful ideas on building our infrastructure and economy that will take us into the future.”
Councilman Randy Burkett also confirmed Miller as the city’s top pick.
“Yes, he’s been hired,” Burkett said. “We felt with his economic development skills he can move us forward. We will make him an ex-officio at AEDC (Amarillo Economic Development Corp.) where he will not be a voting member but will have a seat at the table.
We will continue within the city to try and create a Regional EDC and get other entities involved. Besides EDC experience he’s a very strong leader and I feel he will be a huge asset to the organization.”
Burkett said he also liked Miller’s ideas on issues such as capital improvements.
“It was a tough decision but he got the nod and I’m hoping he will be here until the end of his career,” Burkett said. “He’s 47 and has a good 20 years in him.”
Miller said being city manager of Amarillo is “a big step up” for him as far as the size of the community, but not the complexity of the job.
The contract with Amarillo says he will start on or before Feb. 20, Miller said, but he may come here a week earlier.
He said he still has a house to sell in San Marcos and will likely stay with his mother-in-law, who lives here, and go back to central Texas on weekends until he can buy a permanent residence in Amarillo.
As far as the upcoming May municipal elections, Miller said there is always some cause for trepidation but that he just went through the elections in San Marcos where several council seats were up.
“The key is to be the same for one council as the next,” he said.
Miller said he believes he will fit in here very well because he is familiar with this part of the country and that he’s just like the people who live here: “Direct” and the type of person who “looks for common ground.”
“West Texas people, they like to help, be a part of the team,” Miller said. “I think that resonated with the council.”
As far as his work when he gets here, Miller said the first thing he is going to do is get to know the organization and community in order to identify priorities. He said some of the things they will work on internally will be staff development, leadership development and communication.
The mayor said, “All of them were well qualified, but he has an affinity for this part of the country, he has direct city manager experience, he has experienced some of the things that our city’s going through.” Harpole said Miller “has a good feeling” about working with Assistant City Manager Bob Cowell, who was also a candidate for the job.
“I’m hoping that he and Bob can work well together. Bob’s a valuable employee and we as a council expressed that to him. I think it all is going to work really well for the city. There’s much need for Bob to continue the work he’s been doing … We hope (Cowell) will take that option (to stay on). Certainly it’s always the city manager’s final say on who works here, and it’s Bob’s final say on if he wants to. Universally, the council supported Bob and even said to Mr. Miller that they hope that he will consider him to be a valuable employee because we’re endorsing that and he said, ‘I absolutely will consider that,’ so looks to me like they’re off to the right start.”
Harpole added that the city’s leaders are “trying to build stability, and he (Miller) knows that’s important, and I think Bob and the other staff will be part of that stability.”
The mayor said a number of people had approached him and said they were impressed with Miller and felt “very good” about him.
“They felt good about some other candidates but I will tell you that I probably got more comments about him (Miller) than anyone else.”
Miller said the thing he is most looking forward to with his return to the Texas Panhandle is being close to family. He said his boys will likely go to the same high school his wife did.
San Marcos was the fastest-growing city of more than 50,000 in the nation in 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Miller lobbied for the city following 2015 flooding and helped bring in $25 million in federal disaster recovery funding.
Miller has 17 years of experience in municipal and county government administration. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Texas Tech and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Abilene Christian University. His wife is from Amarillo and they were married here.
Robert Stein contributed reporting to this report.