Weeks after making changes for Austin's airport and public safety oversight, interim City Manager Jesús Garza detailed more extensive city organizational shakeups he said are aimed at improving city services and addressing City Council priorities.

The adjustments include several staffing reassignments and departmental shifts within city government. While no changes immediately affect the city's offerings to residents, Garza said he hopes to streamline operations affecting Austinites while responding to elected city officials' priorities.

“I have assessed the inner workings of this organization and believe changes are needed to position us for the best possible service delivery now and into the future,” Garza said in a statement. “My highest priority is to organize our people and our work so that we are operating cohesively and focused on problem-solving. I believe this structure will be conducive to reducing process redundancies and to operating at the highest efficiency.”

Laying out change

Among the significant changes outlined by Garza are the consolidation of the city's transportation and public works departments into one entity alongside the Corridor Program Office and Project Connect Office. The four units will all report to Richard Mendoza, who served as interim director of the former standalone transportation department, with oversight from Interim Assistant City Manager Robert Goode. The move comes well over a decade after Austin had split its transportation and public works departments apart.

Additionally, Garza created a new planning department. Lauren Middleton-Pratt, currently serving as assistant city manager for development in Buda, will head that branch focused on civic planning. The city's existing housing department remains in place with its work centered around affordable housing.

Garza also moved departments related to Austin's economy and local development review under new leadership, with Assistant City Managers Rodney Gonzales and Veronica Briseño swapping roles.

Briseño will now manage development services—consolidated to also include the code department—in addition to the housing, planning and economic development departments, and the Austin Convention Center. Gonzales will take over government-centered work for Briseño including the human resources and communications departments as well as Austin's equity, resilience, civil rights and labor relations offices.

Goode and Assistant City Manager Stephanie Hayden-Howard were not reassigned. Goode oversees the broadened transportation department, the airport and the Austin Water utility, and Hayden-Howard manages parks, public health and the library system.

New staff assignments

The organizational realignments came with word of further reviews tied to the city manager's office.

First, Austin's emergency operations will be under evaluation by Ken Snipes, director of Austin Resource Recovery. On special assignment, Snipes will look into that subject area in the wake of several high-profile response and communications breakdowns related to recent weather events and utility incidents.

Jason Alexander, Garza's chief of staff, will also be on special assignment to assess Austin-Bergstrom International Airport's operations after the resignation of its CEO Jacqueline Yaft. Garza announced Yaft's departure in his initial reorganization update March 1, as well as news that former airport head Jim Smith would be filling in on an interim basis.

Additional staffing changes include moving Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo to report directly to the city manager, the creation of a new city external affairs executive position and the promotion of a new assistant in the city manager's office.

“We need to deliver basic city services with excellence and reliability while supporting the City Council’s highest priorities and ensuring we are making meaningful progress on those priorities. I cannot emphasize enough the importance and value of teamwork, encouraging innovation and promoting high standards for public service within this organization," Garza said.