Bradshaw: State of the town good
Editor’s Note: Robert Bradshaw, who grew up in Corpus Christi, was town manager at Indian River Shores, Fla., before he was hired to be Port Aransas city manager by a unanimous vote of the city council in April. He took office June 21. Now that he has been on the job for a few months and has had a chance to get settled, the South Jetty took a recent opportunity to interview him on a variety of topics.
South Jetty: You’ve been in office for a few months now. How has the experience been?
Bradshaw: Initially, I just want to say thank you to the mayor and council for the opportunity to come back to Texas, and then also for the opportunity to serve the City of Port Aransas. It’s just been a godsend for me. The first few months, it’s really been, in my opinion, an extremely rewarding experience. … Having such supportive elected officials – they’ve just bent over backwards to get us into the community. And also, the staff, the supporting part of this office – I’ve just been completely overwhelmed by their knowledge and their competence, their professional manner and their courtesy.
Bradshaw: Well, from a financial perspective, we’re in very, very stable, good shape, (especially) compared to other municipalities statewide as well as nationwide. They’re struggling, but we’ve got a healthy fund balance. We’ve got a very competent, very professional finance director (Darla Honea) who really keeps a sharp eye on investments and expenditures by the city. ... And, as I mentioned earlier, from the administrative part of the city, I feel like we’re blessed to have the staff we do have. … I think the folks in Port Aransas can really sleep well at night, knowing the city is moving in the right direction.
SJ: We know, of course, that city managers don’t control everything, but what are some of your goals for the city?
Bradshaw: I appreciate your saying that because, you know, the elected council – they’re the policy makers. The administrative folks – we’re the implementers. What I would like to try to do is just to continue what the past council has started and (the works of) the current council. To be more specific, during the (former mayor Claude Brown) era, looking at the infrastructure of the town, improving streets and drainage, looking at the Charlie’s Pasture area as far as economic development for tourism out there. I feel like we need to implement and push what they started, but then again look at what the new administration is looking at, and that’s the (planned) 11th Street project and … accommodating new development as it starts to come into Port Aransas. A couple of specifics: The nature preserve, continued expansion on that, we’re on Phase Two now. We’re already talking about Phase Three and Phase Four. We’d really like to look at the airport as far as future development there. The harbor – there are some areas we could look at down there as far as expansion and improvement. One of the main things is the facilities, the actual city hall facilities, the parks and recreation facilities. We need to look at upgrading these. The employees here – they’re very dedicated, and … they’ve got to work in this type of work environment, so we want to look at maybe upgrading those facilities sometime in the near future.
S.J.: One of the first things you did after taking office was create the deputy city manager position and rearrange who reports to whom in city government. How has that worked out?
Bradshaw: Well, from a budget standpoint, it’s been a win-win for everybody. By consolidating those positions, it’s been a cost savings measure for us. As you know, the deputy city manager also serves as the director of public works, so again, combining those two positions was a cost-saving measure. … That was also a streamlining measure for us to kind of start paring the staff down a little bit. And also, it helped the manager’s office to have better oversight over each individual department. I think (Deputy City Manager Dave Parsons) has six departments, and I have five departments. But, again, the (city) manager still has direct oversight over obviously all the department heads. … (and) there’s more accountability as far as the day-to-day employees, to the department heads.
S.J.: There was talk this past budget season that this next year’s budget will be a tough one. Is that true, and if so, why and how will the city handle it?
Bradshaw: Well, nobody really has a crystal ball to predict the future, but we’re a very conservative city, Darla (Honea) is a very conservative finance director, and we’re going to plan for the worst. That’s based on the fact, nationwide as well as in the state of Texas, (there has been a) downtrend in property values. And, you know as well as I do, that’s a large part of our budget, as far as revenue stream. That kind of dove-tails into the tourism part of it. When the revenues are down and people are not making as much money, they’re not traveling as much. They’re not going to tourist destinations. So, we’re going to probably really be downshifting our revenue forecast. We want to be realistic about it, obviously, but we want to be fair, and we want to be sure we don’t leave anything on the table.
S.J.: Were you surprised by anything, pleasantly or unpleasantly, when you got here, and why, on both counts?
Bradshaw: (There is) going to be the balancing act as far as the new development coming in, versus the old town, or the old historic Port Aransas. So, that was kind of a change for me, coming back after 15 years and seeing the Cinnamon Shores, and the Village Walks, some of the newer, upscale development coming and still recognizing the fact that you still have the old town. And, again, that’s the balancing act for us. We’ve got to try to recruit and support new development, but we can’t forget old Port Aransas. We’ve got to make sure we take care of them.
SJ: Do you see any plans for the city’s 67 acres at Charlie’s Pasture? The city has permits to establish a marina in that area. What do you see in the future there?
Bradshaw: Well, being in southeast Florida for the past 15 years, (I’ve seen that) marina development is a huge part of the economic scale out there, so I would welcome something like that in a heartbeat. But, again, that’s a policy decision for the elected council to make. Being a little more selfish, any development like that obviously increases the tax revenue streams for the city, so of course we would support that. But, again, it would have to be a clear mandate from the citizens of the city and obviously from the elected officials about what’s going to happen out on the 67 acres.
S.J.: There’s nothing brewing right now with the 67 acres?
S.J.: Do you see any economic development potential for the city that should be explored by some entity?
Bradshaw: That’s something we talked about in my interview process, especially for the downtown, the old-town area. You know, there are federal and state main street programs. There are federal and state dollars that are available to a city like ours to channel into downtown renovation, in upgrading, to help existing businesses to offset some of the impacts they feel from new development. So, that’s something I’d like to really explore in the near future, is looking at old town and having us create a (non-profit) main street organization and having those folks apply for those federal and state monies that would help improvements downtown in that district.
S.J.: Would you like to add anything?
Bradshaw: I just want to say that I’m very thankful. It’s good to be back home, and it wouldn’t have happened without the mayor and council. I feel very comfortable with the direction the city is going in. There are a lot of things going on at the national and state levels, but the city of Port Aransas seems to have a very independent feel about itself. We keep moving forward. We’ve got several areas we can look at as far as development, which I mentioned, like the airport and the harbor, the facilities here, upgrading those, and also looking at existing staff as far as recruitment and retention there and, more specifically, the salary structures, trying to get those up to more competitive levels so we wouldn’t have to worry about recruiting in the future. But, overall, it’s a good feeling. I think Port Aransas has positioned itself in a very, very good position for future development. I think citizens of the town can rest easy in the evening, knowing there is a competent elected board that’s leading the charge for us, and a competent, professional staff that’s implementing the policies.