Interim Ausitn City Manager Announces Key Leadership Changes

AUSTIN, Texas — Jesús Garza, Austin’s interim city manager, announced several key leadership changes on Wednesday.

Garza said that Rey Arellano, one of Austin’s assistant city managers, has announced his retirement. In addition, Jacqueline Yaft, executive director of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), has announced her resignation.

“Rey and Jacqueline have each served this city for several years, and it is important to me that we thank them for their many contributions,” Garza said. “I wish them all the best.”

The City of Austin also announced that Garza has recruited the following individuals to serve on his interim leadership team:

  • Joe Canales, former deputy city manager for the City of Austin, will serve as special assistant to the interim city manager
  • Bruce Mills, former assistant chief of the Austin Police Department, will serve as interim assistant city manager over public safety.
  • Jim Smith, former executive director of AUS, will reprise that role in an interim capacity
  • Laura Huffman, founder of Civicsol and former assistant city manager for Austin, will serve as a consultant in change management

“There are many important issues, and I recognize and support the Council’s sense of urgency in meeting our community’s expectations for quality service,” Garza said. “I am confident that this group of seasoned professionals – who are here on an interim basis – can help deliver on those issues the way the public and Council expects, laying a solid foundation for the future.”

AUS released the following statement regarding Yaft’s resignation and Smith’s interim appointment:

“Today, the City of Austin announced the departure of former Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) Chief Executive Officer, Jacqueline Yaft. In her time at AUS, Ms. Yaft led the airport’s COVID-19 response, launched our Airport Expansion and Development Program and was instrumental in the airport securing new airlines and nonstop flights. We thank her for her service to our airport and our city. AUS looks forward to welcoming back former AUS Chief Executive Officer, Jim Smith who was the AUS CEO from 2000 to 2019. Mr. Smith will serve as the airport’s Interim Executive Director and will help guide this transition.”

On Feb. 15, Austin Mayor Kirk Watson appointed Garza as interim city manager after the Austin City Council voted to fire former city manager Spencer Cronk following his response to an ice storm that hit the city earlier in the month.

Garza and Watson have a long-standing relationship, as Garza was the city manager from 1994 until 2002 while Watson was the mayor from 1997 to 2001. Garza was also the treasurer of a political committee, Stand Together Austin, that donated to Watson’s recent mayoral campaign.  

The City said since taking the role of interim city manager, Garza has started an organizational review, “which includes working with department leadership to identify areas of immediate need to help define priorities.”

Read the original article here.