Lyle to 'turn out lights' at city hall for last time
Judy Lyle never intended to go to work for the city in the first place. Back in November, 1984, Lyle applied for a job as a secretary at The U.T.-Austin Marine Science Institute. They wanted her - so much that they gave her a second shot at the typing test - but Lyle froze up and wasn't able to pass it.
But a phone call to city hall put Lyle on the track of a vacancy for a finance director, a job for which she said she didn't feel she was qualified.
"I never had an accounting degree or any formal education," Lyle recalled, though she had done some bookkeeping on a limited basis.
The city's accountant, Gary Davenport, told her she had done all the elements of the job - she just needed to put them together.
Reflecting back last week on that 24 years and three months, Lyle judged it to have been "one hell of a ride."
Friday, Feb. 29, will be Lyle's last day with the city.
"The city had gone through five finance directors in about two years," she recalled. "Back then, books were kept by hand. I was the first one to start keeping the books on computer."
The city's finance department then had three people, one of whom handled property taxes. Today, that department has four people, and the property tax responsibility has been transferred to Nueces County. But Lyle points out that when she started, the city's budget was $1.3 million. Today, it's $9.5 million - and still being handled by virtually the same number of people.
Back then, the city had a total of 95 employees, including two in Emergency Medical Services, two in the harbor and the operations division. Today, that's been bumped up to only 103 - a growth of 8 percent in two dozen years.
Work has become more departmentalized, but city workers still operate as a team, Lyle said.
She's proudest of the confidence city employees and city managers have had in her over her tenure, she said.
Lyle was formally named assistant city manager when Tom Brooks was city manager, and acted as interim city manager between when Kelvin Knauf was fired and Michael Kovacs was hired.
It was during Lyle's tenure as finance director that the city began seeking federal and state grants to help pay for such things as the recently completed shoreline erosion control project along the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. Among other changes, the city now has a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and has become better-known as a tourist destination, Lyle said.
A hotel-motel tax that voters approved has grown in income from $274,000 to more than $1.2 million over the years, she said.
Among the things Lyle believes the city needs to do in the future is address fire protection needs.
"The city is outgrowing a volunteer fire department," she said. "(Fire protection) has to be addressed fi- nancially."
Former City Manager Tom Brooks, Lyle's ex-boss, said, "I always had complete confidence in whatever response that Judy provided to me, whether I liked it or not. She provided correct responses, not what may have been a more politically correct answer. Judy knows and knew the city and the other employees. She treated each of them with respect and dignity. She came to work early and she left late, whenever the day's job was complete. She turned the lights out."
City employees will hope to leave the lights on for Lyle when they wish her well at a farewell luncheon on Friday, Feb. 28. Following that there will be a public open house in her honor at the Civic Center.
As for Lyle and husband Cleo, their plans are to travel a little bit, she said.
"We want to go to Arkansas and hunt for diamonds," she said. "We'll do some bass fishing."
Eventually, Lyle is thinking of opening a service company in Port Aransas to "Help second home owners with things they can't take care of, because they're not here during the week."
She'll also be available on a consultant basis to the city, just in case.
First, though, there are those diamonds.
And, oh, yes - the bass.