Mayoral election very different today
In the spring of 2018, when Rick Hall filed to run for Mayor against then-incumbent Connie Fuller, the position was very different than it is today.
When Hall was sworn in that May, following a 15-vote win in a contest that tallied 129 total votes, the Mayor’s job was to lead the council and fill a role focused more on vision than the day-to-day inner workings of the government.
Within a short time, Hall has remade the position, and along with it completely changed the leadership structure of Liberty Hill. Today, as he runs for re-election he is not running for the same position he sought two years ago. Today, Hall is applying for a job with the voters of Liberty Hill — a job that residents generally would expect to come with qualifications and city management experience to even get an interview, much less be hired. The job now also comes with a $40,000 salary.
Today, Hall wants voters to say he should be the day-to-day decision-maker and manager in Liberty Hill. He wants voters to say the ultimate decision on 8-inch or 12-inch water lines should rest with him, that the call on how and where to spend tax funds should be in his hands, and the tasking, disciplining, and hiring of city employees should be completely his call.
It all sounds like the things a mayor would do, right? Are we splitting hairs with responsibilities and duties?
The decisions Hall is making today are ones that most people have a lot of experience with before they are handed the keys to everything. If we assume that an elected mayor suddenly holds the same skills and qualifications as a City Administrator we are making quite a leap.
Would we assume Hall is qualified to go out and begin applying for City Administrator or City Manager jobs posted across Texas?
What is Hall’s resume? When it appeared that Hall’s intent was to assume management of the city staff and become the primary decision-maker in Liberty Hill, The Independent requested a copy of his resume to look closer at his experience and qualifications. That request, made multiple times, was ignored.
When Hall was given direct supervisory authority over city staff by the current Council last May, he and that Council only wanted to argue that’s how it was all along. But that’s not true. The city administrator filled that management and supervisory role for the most part.
When asked why the change was made, Hall said it was done because then-Administrator Greg Boatright said he didn’t like to, or want to, manage. Boatright repeatedly denied ever saying it, but Hall said taking supervisory control of staff was “…to help – for lack of a better term, teach (Boatright) how to be the manager the city needs him to be. I’ve had 22 years experience with staff management with thousands of employees under me and I’m just trying to create a structure so we have a solid path moving forward.”
There’s that experience we don’t really know much about.
So in May, Hall began running the City and making changes, and getting Council approval along the way. It was at this same time that public Council discussion of issues and how the City would be managed ceased.
By August, to no one’s surprise, Boatright was out of a job. A city doesn’t really need two people managing staff and operations. But that same night Hall pledged that the Council would begin the process of hiring a new administrator. Hall was even asked if his plan was to not replace Boatright, and he denied that, again assuring The Independent the plan was to hire a new administrator.
The plan finally changed Monday – as had been suspected by many observers all along – when the Council voted unanimously to not hire a new administrator but to hire a new assistant administrator with a new title and few specifics on what that role would be. An assistant to Hall, it seems.
Hall said last week it was a “Council decision”, but that decision came with little consideration and seemed to match up well with the trajectory city government has been on since Hall began his Mayoral journey to this point. It all appears very orchestrated.
The suspicion shortly after he was elected was that Hall wanted to call the shots in Liberty Hill. To date, not only has nothing occurred to change that suspicion, but many things have happened that reinforce it.
Hall is in line for a new paycheck in May and a position atop the City of Liberty Hill with more authority in his hands than one person in the city has ever seen.
In a growing city like Liberty Hill there is much at stake, and qualifications matter. Experience matters. The voters should be able to focus in on qualifications and experience and see if they have hired the right person or not.