On Jan. 31, the San Antonio City Council unanimously approved the appointment of Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh as the new city manager for San Antonio replacing retiring incumbent Sheryl Sculley. Walsh will take over on March 1, the day after Sculley’s 13-year tenure ends.
Walsh was announced as the top candidate the evening of Jan. 30, after hours of interviews and hours more of council deliberation. He was among two applicants who made it to the final round of interviews. Assistant city manager María Villagómez was the other.
In a statement, Mayor Ron Nirenberg praised Walsh for the “strong leadership abilities” and “collaborative spirit,” in his two dozen years of working for the city.
“His skill and experience overseeing crucial public safety departments will enable him to serve San Antonio well,” Nirenberg’s statement said.
Although describing the runner up as a “rising star,” Nirenberg believes that Walsh brought a breadth of experience that was unparalleled.
“He knows, and is familiar with, and has high esteem from just virtually every constituency that is in this city … Erik slips into that position and represents us all very well,” said Nirenberg.
Walsh, 49, was born and raised in San Antonio and has wanted to become the city manager of his hometown since he was a student at Central Catholic High School. He has received two degrees from Trinity University and, until March 1, currently oversees a third of the city’s $2.8 billion budget in many of the city’s most important departments, including fire and police.
District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales, however, admitted she had her doubts at first when Walsh was named finalist.
“(It’s) no surprise to us that you were not my first choice for this job; you were not even my second choice for this job,” said Gonzales. “And then we had an opportunity to meet one on one and then I was absolutely convinced you were not the right person for this job.”
Gonzales said Walsh did not seem to be familiar with the priorities of her district, which contains most of San Antonio’s West Side.
After spending more time with him she went on to add that she believed he has all the skills necessary to represent her district as city manager and make sure that it does not get left behind.
This new job will also be coming with a hefty pay raise for Walsh who had a base salary of $256,733 during Sculley’s tenure. This will be increased to a maximum base salary of $312,000 with no bonuses and he will only be able to serve for 8 years as was chartered in the Proposition B charter amendment which was approved last November. Under the restrictions of the recently passed Proposition B, which amended the city charter, Walsh can only receive total financial compensation of 10 times the lowest-salaried employee. Walsh will also have to pay for his own healthcare premiums.
This is in comparison to his predecessor who had a salary of $475,000 with the ability to receive a bonus of up to $100,000.
During his public pitch Wednesday, Walsh reiterated that he thought he was the best man for the job.
“I applied for this position because I want San Antonio to be economically viable, safe, and culturally inspiring, and a place where people want to work, grow and raise a family,” Walsh said. “Personally, that’s important to me.”
Erik Walsh appears to be a well-qualified candidate that is highly respected by other San Antonio officials. With his experience, San Antonio residents can definitely expect him to carry out his position to the best of his abilities. However, residents should still continue to question why a city official is being paid $312,000 and if such a position in public office deserves a salary as high as his considering that the average salary for a city manager in America is $95,537 according to ZipRecruiter and $106,408 in 2007 according to the National League of Cities.
Photo by Paul Sableman. Flickr.