A city manager can wear many faces of city government. According to the Texas City Management Association, a city manager in a council-manager form of government can prepare budgets, implement policy, handle administrative duties and hire and fire personnel.
The city of Pearland appointed Clay Pearson as city manager in March. During his 20-year career, Pearson has gained a broad overview and understanding for the varied operations of city government.
Pearson comes to Pearland from Novi, Michigan, where he served as city manager since July 2006 after serving as assistant city manager since September 2000. Prior to that, Pearson served the city of Elgin, Illinois, for more than a decade in various capacities.
Friendswood City Manager Roger Roecker began his foray into local government as the city's finance director in 1989. Roecker was named director of administrative services for the city in 1992 and became city manager in 2008 after serving as interim city manager for 17 months.
He has more than 39 years of finance and management experience.
Clay Pearson, City Manager, Pearland
What do you like most about working in Pearland?
It's a very welcoming community and very energetic. Those two things fit right in with my personality. There's a very can-do attitude here, and people are not pretentious. Everybody has been very welcoming.
Describe some of the challenges facing Pearland.
Pearland is a city growing into itself. We have a very large geographic population and we're [an] economic city that's growing quickly. And not all of the corresponding road systems, city service delivery systems, things that we work on every day here, have grown to meet that. Developers have built up the residential, but we're also building two fire stations within 12 months. That's pretty extraordinary. So, you have to build those physical spaces. You have to staff them up. You got to bring those people on board. That's a pretty stark example of the growth curve and the challenges we all face. It can all be done. It just takes a lot of hard work and focus. You won't hear us talk too much about being the fastest-growing city or anything like that. [Cities] can grow fast, but it's what [they] do with that [growth that matters].
What are some exciting developments coming to Pearland?
The fact that two hospitals are going to open in Pearland in 2015 is extraordinary. I think it shows our link to the Texas Medical Center. Pearland continues to be the No. 1 ZIP code for people who work at the Texas Medical Center. Hwy. 288 is a driveway—a very full driveway—in the mornings and the evenings back and forth to the medical center. And there is relief on the way for that. We're working with [the Texas Department of Transportation] and Brazoria County. There are going to be managed toll lanes that will make that commute easier.
What can Pearland residents look forward to in the future?
We've got the library expansion on deck, and we're working on Shadow Creek Ranch Park. These are things people use and appreciate every day. Work is continuing on the Hickory Slough regional sports complex. We're putting money into Centennial Park and Independence Park. People want those things. People move into the community for our great neighborhoods and the great housing stock and the great schools. They will stay when all those things continue to be better.
What does the city manager do?
Our government is based upon a corporate model where the mayor and council members are the board of directors that the shareholders—the residents—elect. The council hires a professional city manager that runs the day-to-day operations who is responsible for preparing a budget and making sure the policies and ordinances of the city are carried out effectively and efficiently. It's like being the CEO of an organization. In Pearland, it's a complex organization, but I have a great staff to work with. All of the departments have great leadership.
Roger Roecker, City Manager, Friendswood
What do you like most about working in Friendswood?
Although almost 40,000 people live here, the thing I like most about serving
Friendswood is it still has a small-town feel. Everyone feels like a neighbor and a friend. I can't go too far within the city limits without someone I know say[ing] hello to me. I truly believe Friendswood is one of the safest, most affordable and family-friendly places in America.
Describe some of the challenges facing Friendswood.
We are working hard to continue to grow without losing the positive characteristics people love about Friendswood. We want to continue to attract new residents and businesses while minimizing the growing pains, such as traffic, that often accompany expansion. That's a tough balance to achieve. Friendswood has a tradition of excellence that residents expect. It is more challenging now than ever [before] to offer the same level of city services at the same cost as in previous decades.
Friendswood passed a bond election a year ago. What work has been done to this point, or what is scheduled?
Voters decided to fund a variety of expansions, improvements and replacements. Projects underway or completed are reconstruction[s] and/or expansion[s] of [roads] in Friendswood: Whispering Pines Avenue/Friendswood Link Road, Mary Ann Drive, Shadowbend Avenue, Townes Road, Winding Road and Baker Road. Also on the drawing board [are] a new fire station, the expansion of another and reconstruction of the parking lot at a third [station]. The Friendswood Public Library is going to be renovated and expanded. The sports park at Moore Road, 1776 Park, Stevenson Park and Centennial Park will each be upgraded. New amenities include expanded walking trails, a basketball pavilion, splash pad and softball fields. One of the hidden treasures is Lake Friendswood. Once the safer access and facilities that voters approved are complete, residents will have a new place to go fishing, boating or just have a family picnic.
What can Friendswood residents look forward to in the future?
I'm optimistic about the future of Friendswood. We are living in an award-winning city in, what many people would say is, the greatest region in the greatest state in the greatest nation in the world. Our neighbors can look forward to
continued, steady, managed growth. They can look forward to continued opportunity to live in a city with a rich history of traditional values and leadership, which wants to strike the right balance between the future and the past.
What does the city manager do in Friendswood?
I have the pleasure of being surrounded by talented, experienced public servants. That includes elected officials and city employees. I try to lead the city employees to operate the city according to the direction provided by the mayor and City Council, who are accountable to the voters. It is a truly rewarding job, and I am blessed to be part of the city of Friendswood.