“It would be nice to have a Michael Kovacs clone,” said Councilman Rick Pratt. “He was honest, to the point and skilled. I think he was a very good leader, and he certainly brought the city forward considerably from where it was when he inherited it.”
Councilman Mike Hall said, “I’m looking pretty much for someone similar to Michael, who keeps it on a professional level, doesn’t get involved in politics and stays with the business of the city.”
Kovacs announced on Thursday, Nov. 5, that he is resigning his job to take a post as assistant city manager of Park City, Utah. Kovacs said he and his family are looking forward to the move.
“Park City is the premier U.S. ski tourism destination and has an international reputation for having the best powder snow in North America, if not the world,” Kovacs wrote in a news release. “I’m very excited to get a chance to contribute to the city there.”
Kovacs said his contract requires that he provide at least 30 days’ notice, which would mean that his last day at work in Port Aransas would be Dec. 4. However, he said he plans to ask the council’s permission to leave Nov. 25, so he can get started sooner in Park City.
Council members said they weren’t sure yet of how soon they could bring in a new city manager. They said they want a thorough but relatively quick search.
Kovacs said he will talk to the council about search strategies for a new city manager when the council holds its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at council chambers in city hall.
Kovacs said he will make suggestions about the kind of city manager the city should seek and how the council should go about finding that person. He estimated that the city likely would have a new city manager in place within seven months.
The city could receive 200 to 300 resumes from applicants all over the nation, Kovacs said.
Dave Parsons, the city’s planning and projects manager, automatically becomes acting city manager when Kovacs is out of town or is otherwise indisposed, but the council will have ultimate say over who is made interim city manager after Kovacs takes his new job.
Kovacs, who has been city manager of Port Aransas for nearly five years, was chosen from about 200 applicants for the Park City job.
Park City has a population of about 8,500, but the town serves more than 20,000 people in the entire area with a transit service. The community hosted some of the winter Olympic games held in Utah in 2002.
Kovacs said he has enjoyed working in Port Aransas. He said he “improved the city’s relationships within the region, with state and federal agencies and … worked closely with the business community and chamber of commerce to assist them in increasing tourism.”
Among other developments during Kovacs’ administration were initiation of street and drainage system improvements developed from two major bond elections netting more than 75 percent voter approval, and a major streets project paid for with cash. The projects totaled more than $10 million worth of work.
The bonds elections and the cash project were brought forward by the city council, and Kovacs’ administration has provided staff oversight of related action including the bidding process and the actual street and drainage work itself, once it got started.
Kovacs also presided over upgrades of public safety services and emergency preparedness. The work “vastly improved capabilities and positioned the city for readiness to handle day-to-day and large-scale emergencies,” he said.
Councilman Charles Bujan said he was sorry to see Kovacs go.
“Although Michael and I had disagreements, I respected him as city manager,” Bujan said.
For the next city manager of Port Aransas, Bujan said he wants “someone who is on top of things. Michael, it seemed to me, was always on top of things. You didn’t have to worry about storm preparedness or the beach being cleaned, or some of the major issues. He was always in there, and I want someone just like that.”
Even Mayor Claude Brown had nothing negative to say about Kovacs after news broke that the city manager was moving on. Brown and Kovacs haven’t always seen eye to eye on how city government should be run.
But, after Kovacs announced his resignation, Brown, in an interview, said, “Mike was good with numbers and taking care of grants, and the budget and so forth. I’ll just leave it at that. I’m not going to say anything bad about him. … He’s got his way of doing things, and I’ve got my way of doing things.”
Brown and Kovacs found themselves at the center of a controversy a few months ago, after Kovacs reported to police that he heard Brown – who was having tax problems – make a threat that he planned to kill county tax authorities. Brown denied making any threats. He said a comment he made out of frustration with county officials was misinterpreted. No criminal investigation was launched.
Asked what kind of city manager he would like to see hired, Brown said, “We need a guy who’s going to require the employees to do their jobs. We need to put some emphasis on our beach maintenance.
“I’m a little disturbed at what’s been taking place with the sand dunes,” Brown said. “Building a large plateau of sand is not how a dune line is supposed to be built. Running machines up in them dunes and building a big levee out of sand – I’ve been disturbed about that a long time.”
Councilman Keith Donley said he admired Kovacs for his ability to focus on the job at hand and ignore “a lot of petty distractions.”
Donley added, “My goal will be to find somebody we think is as good or better than Michael was. … But one thing I was always impressed with was his enthusiasm and his energy level. That’s a part of his makeup I feel will be irreplaceable.”
Kovacs “organized the departments beautifully, brought in some excellent people and instilled in them a sense of goals and accomplishments,” Pratt said. “He gave them pride in their work. These people are good.”
Councilman Keith McMullin agreed that Kovacs will be leaving Port Aransas with a strong city staff.
“The citizens of Park City, Utah, are getting an intelligent, hard-working man of tremendous integrity,” said McMullin, who is mayor pro-tem. “Those of us in Port Aransas who have worked with Michael knew that he would eventually go on to bigger opportunities.”
Pratt said the next city manager of Port Aransas should have insight into the town’s character.
“I’ll be looking for a man who recognizes the fact we have a unique little city here with a great future,” Pratt said. “We’re about to experience a rebounding economy. We have been changing all of our zoning, shaking it out, cleaning it up. We need a man or woman who understands how to guide us through this next era.”
Council member Glenda Balentine could not be reached for comment on the city manager issue.