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Up close with new administrator

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Photo by Judith Pannebaker
Newly minted City of Bandera Administrator Michael “Mike” Garr

“The first thing I said to Councilman Rebeca Gibson was ‘I’m going to make you proud’,” said Michael “Mike” Garr, 65, immediately after being selected as new administrator for the City of Bandera. Gibson, the only member of council to speak against Garr’s selection, described him as being the “least qualified” of the final four candidates. She implored her colleagues not to continue to hire “our friends and neighbors.”
During an interview on Tuesday, April 26, Garr praised Gibson, noting, “She does her homework and is always prepared.”
Garr’s resume includes serving from 2008 to the present as assistant librarian for the Bandera County Public Library and, prior to that, 30 years as firefighter and senior fire inspector with the Farmington Hills Fire Department. Additionally, he received a Master of Public Administration from Oakland University, Rochester Hills, Michigan, to assist with his administrative duties with the fire department.
Describing his first official day with the city – Monday, April 25 – Garr said, “I spent most of yesterday meeting with city employees, including the city marshal, who is apparently the longest-serving city employee.”
He also wooed work crews at the city yard with donuts. “The public works department employs the largest number of people,” Garr said, adding, “I know several of them because I served as administrator with the Flying L PUD (public utility district). When Mike Cardenas served as public works director and city administrator, the city had a contract to service Flying L water company.
His “meet and greet” duties also included visiting with administrators with the Bandera Independent School District – Superintendent Regina Howell, in particular. As it turned out, Howell has ties to Farmington Hills where Garr worked as a firefighter and to Grosse Pointe, Michigan, where Garr’s mother was a schoolteacher.
“I want to have a good start with the school district and promised to keep them in the loop regarding construction projects that could affect traffic patterns,” Garr said. “I’ll let them know what’s coming and about any road closures.”
Additionally, in an attempt to “mend fences” with Bandera County governing officials, Garr met with Judge Richard Evans Wednesday, April 27. Garr also introduced himself to commissioners during a Thursday, April 28, meeting. Evans noted, “We’re already had a meeting and it’s moving in the right direction.”
“It’s of vital importance to have a good working relationship with the county,” Garr said during last week’s interview with the Courier.
Besides “the image problem Bandera has of incompetency,” he described his biggest challenge fostering a team concept that includes both city workers and elected officials. “The team must pull in the same direction and I intend to develop a vision plan that council agrees with and endorses,” Garr said. He also advocates “transparency,” which he fostered while serving as the public information officer with his former fire department.
As a nod to transparency, he intends to post all city bills online. During the last several months, municipal bills went unpaid, which could potentially harm the city’s credit rating.
To ensure council is prepared to discuss all agenda items intelligently, Garr will hand-deliver packets to members who didn’t bother to pick them up at the municipal building by the Wednesday before regular meetings on Thursday.
“I want meetings to run smoothly with everyone being aware of what will be discussed. I don’t want to see council thumbing through documents during discussions,” Garr explained. “I see my role as that of a business manager to council.”
After Garr’s selection, Hegemier commented that some people might be concerned that the new administrator’s wife, Rose, serves as interim city treasurer. However, Garr harbors no such worries.
As he explained, “My wife was hired a month before me and for a specific project. She was asked to get the city’s financial house in order and prepare for an audit. I expect her to complete that job soon.” He also noted that his wife would report directly to Hegemier, who serves as her direct supervisor.
Regarding his seeming lack of experience in municipal government, “I may not have a lot of experience in administration, but I have a lifetime of experience from my various jobs and volunteer positions. I feel very comfortable serving as administrator with the City of Bandera.”
And, even before officially taking the reins of the Cowboy Capital of the World, Garr came into the office on the weekend to deal with the 831 emails that accumulated in anticipation of a new city administrator.