The Woodlands begins search for new general manager

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The Woodlands Township launched its search for a replacement for retiring General Manager and President Don Norrell with its decision Nov. 15 to hire the firm Ralph Andersen and Associates to oversee the process.

The search will take about 90 days, according to information from the township.

After 14 years with The Woodlands Township in several roles, Norrell announced earlier this year he would step down from the position in 2020. He said he will continue to act in an advisory role for the next year.

The change in leadership comes as the board of directors welcomes two new members following the Nov. 5 election and prepares to make a decision in early 2020 about whether to put an incorporation vote on the ballot in November.

Three members of The Woodlands Township board of directors—Chairman Gordy Bunch, Treasurer John Anthony Brown and Director Bruce Rieser—are members of the Transition Task Force, which helped to select the search firm and will be a part of the initial interview process.


The task force will also make a recommendation for the finalist, who will then be interviewed by the full board for consideration.

Bunch said the ideal candidate would have municipal experience from a comparably sized community with similar amenities to •The Woodlands.•Brown said the position requires a unique blend of experience and personal characteristics.

“Along with the obvious professional experience, both in an incorporated city capacity and municipal government, I would be looking for someone who has the ability to work and manage many people with a wide range of personalities, which encompasses staff and a seven-member board,” Brown said.

The general manager leads The Woodlands Township executive team, which includes two assistant general managers, the directors of human resources and community relations as well as the assistant to the president. The manager reports to The Woodlands Township board of directors and works with the community to ensure township services are provided at the levels expected by residents, according to the township website. The salary range for the position is $180,628-$279,570, said Susan Welbes, director of human resources.

If an incorporation election is held in 2020 and voters decide to form a city, the duties of the general manager would become broader and include public works and a police force, Brown said.

“The general manager role is similar to a city manager,” Bunch said. “The role would remain the same and pick up the additional municipal responsibilities if the residents vote to become the city of The Woodlands.”

During the process leading to a possible incorporation vote, the general manager would also have an important role, and previous experience with an incorporating city would be valuable in that case, he said.

Although the search firm will recruit candidates from across the country, it will consider both internal and external candidates, he said.

Bunch said Norrell has been integral to many milestones in the township’s development over the past 14 years.

This included being present when regional participation agreements were established with the cities of Houston, Conroe, The Woodlands homeowners’ associations and the Town Center Improvement District to create The Woodlands Township in 2007 with voter approval.

“His leadership through these multifaceted transitions was exemplary, and he’s leaving the community in a stronger position than when he accepted the role of general manager,” Bunch said.

This article ran in the December 2019 edition of The Woodlands. Read the full e-edition here.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.


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