Following Austin City Council's 10-1 vote Feb. 15 for his removal, City Manager Spencer Cronk spoke with Community Impact about his five-year tenure as the city's chief executive and his future plans.

Cronk's removal is effective Feb. 16.

Council's action during the special-called meeting came after several members expressed discontent with Cronk over the city's management of the recent winter storm response as well as negotiations over a new police labor agreement. Cronk's severance includes one year's pay and other benefits, totaling $463,001.50.

Cronk will be succeeded by former City Manager Jesús Garza on an interim basis until a new manager is appointed.

This interview was edited for clarity.

Was this separation warranted?

Look, I knew the job that I signed up for when I came to Austin five years ago, and it’s not uncommon for the council and manager to re-evaluate their working relationship, and [Feb. 15] was a reflection of that.

And how was your relationship with council overall?

Well, I’m evaluated every day. And so we’ve had some very challenging times in the last five years, and I know that we have had—the relationship always gets re-evaluated during those challenging times. Because recently we’ve had three significant events, including an election, a winter storm and these police negotiations, it would not be uncommon to use that opportunity to re-evaluate the relationship.

Do you see any missteps or shortcomings with your work on the recent storm response or police contract process?

I take responsibility for every action, and I hold myself accountable. I am the one that the council holds accountable. And so every decision that I put forward, every action that I bring to council, is something that’s done in my best professional recommendation, and I stand by all those decisions.

Do you still see the four-year police contract proposal as the right path forward?

I do. ... You know, the timing of where the last contract ended was really critical in how we might be able to ensure that we have the support and recruitment, retention efforts that are needed going forward balanced with an appropriate level of oversight. I felt like the four-year contract that we did negotiate provided that balance. I can’t control the timing of when an election might happen or when future contracts might play out, but what I had was the information that I had in front of me, and I had to make the best decision based on that.

What do you think you did best on the job?

I can certainly point to the infrastructure investments that we’re seeing at a historic level, the exploding economy that we’ve had here in Austin or how we’ve been able to navigate some of these unprecedented events, whether they’re weather events or even the bombing that occurred in 2018. What I’m most proud of is how I have supported and valued our city employees. We provide incredible services to our residents, and each and every day I see them go above and beyond to make those services, make the ways in which this community special, even better. And I am so proud to have worked with the 16,000 men and women of the city of Austin, and I will continue to support them no matter what.

Do you have any top regrets?

I can’t control Mother Nature, but I do know that we continue to learn from each of these historic and unprecedented events. And so as the community of Austin, as the city organization grapple with climate change, grapple with resiliency, we will get better going forward. We will learn how to ensure that we’re responding differently for some of these future events. But that’s just the nature of the world that we live in right now. And I could not have predicted that we’d be going through a global pandemic and a winter storm at the same time. So these are things that we have responded to and we’ve adapted to and we will continue to learn from.

Is there anything you’re disappointed you won’t get to see through?

I’m confident that the next leadership in the organization will ensure that they are reflecting the needs of our community, and I will be part of that—I will do anything I can to help support them going forward.

What’s the outlook for the city of Austin?

Austin is an incredible place. It’s what drew me here five years ago. I remain here; I’m raising my two daughters here. It is so special in many respects. One thing that I know that our community will have to grapple with is some of the historic infrastructure investment that we’ve been making. So the pain of digging up I-35, the challenge of building a light rail system—these are challenges that big cities will need to grapple with, and Austin is just starting that process now.

Any idea what’s next for you?

Well first, I’m going to ensure there’s a smooth transition with the next city manager, and then I’m looking forward to spending some more time with my girls. I’ve been busy recently, and so frankly throughout the time I’ve been in Austin, I really haven’t had much time to explore the many unique quirks and hidden spots, and so I’m looking forward to seeing more of Austin.

Did your tenure in this role end up like you expected?

I don’t know if anyone could envision the last few years by any stretch of the imagination, but what I do know is I am committed to public service. And I love what I am doing for a profession; I love working with the incredibly dedicated and professional employees that the city of Austin has. And no matter what happens, they will continue to give their heart and soul for the community, as will I.