Garza announced March 1 that Rey Arellano, assistant city manager for public safety, is retiring. Additionally, Jacqueline Yaft, chief executive of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, has resigned.
Stepping in for Arellano is Bruce Mills, a former Austin Police Department assistant chief. Jim Smith, ABIA's former executive director, will succeed Yaft on an interim basis.
Arellano oversaw Austin's public safety departments during a push to "reimagine" policing alongside a historic, temporary reduction to APD's budget and responses to multiple natural disasters.
Yaft has led ABIA through the early years of the airport's long-range expansion plan, now called Journey with AUS. The infrastructure investment to address the area's rapid growth and rising demand for air travel is proceeding with recent updates, including baggage system improvements and the launch of a gate expansion. The plan has also generated some controversy related to the construction of a new fuel storage facility and a legal showdown over the airport's South Terminal.
“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 in a statement. “I wish them all the best.”
In addition to the management shakeups, Garza also announced former Deputy City Manager Joe Canales will begin serving as his special assistant. And Laura Huffman, a former assistant city manager and until recently the president and CEO of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, was brought on as a consultant for 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."
Garza, Austin's city manager from 1994-2002, was appointed to the interim role by City Council on Feb. 15 after officials voted to cut ties with former City Manager Spencer Cronk. In Austin, the city manager serves as a chief executive overseeing civic operations who takes formal direction from council.
Garza's last stint at City Hall overlapped with the tenure of Mayor Kirk Watson, who previously served in that role from 1997-2001. Garza most recently served as treasurer of the pro-Watson Stand Together Austin PAC that raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support his election campaign through last year.
City Council has not yet decided on an approach for selecting Austin's next permanent manager. Officials are set to discuss the city manager search process as well as Garza's own responsibilities and review behind closed doors on March 9.