By SHELLY WILKISON
Amber Lewis, the City’s chief financial officer and assistant city administrator, resigned Tuesday.
Lewis, who was first hired by the City in 2014 as a planner and was later promoted to manage the city finances, has been hired as City Administrator for the City of Rollingwood — a suburb of Austin.
While the move is a clear career advancement for Lewis, the announcement comes on the heels of change at City Hall that may have influenced her decision to leave.
Lewis, who is credited for introducing a professional level of transparency in city finances — something that was noticeably missing when she was hired — told The Independent Wednesday that she believed “I’ve done all I felt like I could do in Liberty Hill.”
Before joining the Liberty Hill staff in 2014, Lewis served as Executive Director of the Housing Authority of the City of Holdrege and
the Holdrege Development Corp., in Holdrege, Nebraska. Prior to that, she was assistant city manager for the City of Kearney, Nebraska, and also previously worked as a consultant at a firm that secured and managed public grants.
Lewis said she was supervised by City Administrator Greg Boatright from the time she was hired in March 2014 until about three months ago when the Council changed the Employee Handbook making the position a “municipal officer”. The change meant her position would fall under the direct supervision of the Mayor and Council.
“It was confusing to me because I didn’t know who I was to answer to, and I didn’t know how everyone else was to be supervised,” Lewis said.
Earlier this month, the oversight of the police chief and the police department was taken away from the City Administrator and placed under the Mayor’s supervision. The Chief’s employment contract was amended to reflect the change.
Mayor Connie Fuller told The Independent this week that her responsibility in this role includes the “approval of police department expenditures.”
As finance director, Lewis said until now, oversight of the budget for all city departments and funds were part of her responsibility — keeping track of revenue vs. expenses and making sure all departments stayed within the annual spending plan approved by the Council. It was a responsibility she took seriously. Working within those parameters and promoting transparency in government resulted in clean audits year after year.
“My responsibility was to monitor the budget and be sure expenditures were authorized by the city council,” she said. “That’s what I was supposed to do.”
She said in Rollingwood where she will serve as City Administrator, the police department will be under her purview, just like all city departments.
She said there are six officers, including a police chief, in Rollingwood — about the same size as Liberty Hill PD before the council approved additional positions in fiscal 2016 and around-the-clock patrols.
“I don’t know of any other cities where it works this way,” she said of the Liberty Hill Council’s decision to bring the Chief and the department under the direct supervision of the Mayor, bypassing the city administrator.
The Mayor says Chapter 22 of the Texas Local Government Code is the state law that provides for that authority. (See related story on Page 1.)
On Wednesday, City Administrator Greg Boatright credited Lewis for finding the funds to build a new city administration building downtown without passing along the cost to taxpayers.
He said she had also been instrumental in finding ways to accomplish things by looking outside the box. That included negotiating with developers to obtain fees that could be used to improve city infrastructure and parks.
He said the budgetary oversight and financial planning she brought to the table allowed the city to lower property taxes while still being able to accomplish significant improvements for the city.
Boatright said Wednesday that the position of finance director will be posted, but the role of assistant city administrator will not be filled for the time being. Although he added that would be a council decision.
Until the position is filled, Boatright said a vendor who is already working closely with the City will be called on an interim as-needed basis.