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Dallas City Council Names Three City Manager Finalists, Including A.C. Gonzalez


It took hours, behind closed doors, but Dallas City Council members narrowed their list from six candidates to three -- interim Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez, former North Carolina county manager David Cooke, and Deanna Santana, a city administrator in California.

A second round of interviews will begin next week.

Philip Kingston, a Dallas City Council member, says it’s important to get the right person for the job because there’s literally no one more influential in local government.

“When I say influential, I don’t mean from a policy perspective, that remains the council’s job, but in terms of execution, moving our city government forward, that’s gotta be somebody who is highly talented," Kingston said. "Someone who is going to be partner to the council, someone who’s going to give the council unvarnished data, and professional advice.”

Gonzalez is considered the front runner because he served for years as assistant city manager, but his handling of a controversial limousine ordnanceforced him to admit that his actions on that matter was one of the worst decisions of his career.

Willy Cothrum, a former City Council member who served Dallas in the late 1960s, says when he was on the council, he always favored the candidate from inside Dallas. But he admits an outsider could do the job, too.

“If they’re a good, fast learner, and qualified, he or she can come in here and learn, and do it very quickly too," Cothrum said. "But, overall, Dallas has always taken the path, for at least the last 50 years.”

The council expects to make a final decision on Dallas' 15th city manager by the end of the month. The person who accepts the job will be responsible for some 12,000 employees and an annual budget of $3 billion. The former city manager was paid more than $300,000.

Update, 4:20 p.m. Wednesday: The Dallas City Council has named three city manager finalists:

They are David Cooke, Deanna Santana and A.C. Gonzalez. Gonzalez is the interim Dallas city manager. Santana is the city administrator for Oakland, Calif. Cooke is the former manager in Wake County in North Carolina.

A second round of interviews will be held starting Jan. 15.

Here's the city's press release:

The City Council today identified David Cooke, A.C. Gonzalez and Deanna Santana as finalists for the city manager job opening. The City Manager Search Committee made recommendations to the Council in executive session this afternoon based on its first round of interviews with six candidates.

“The Committee was impressed with the experience, diversity and preparedness of all the candidates,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “We are excited to learn more about the three finalists in the coming weeks.”

The search firm hired by the City, Bob Murray & Associates, will work with the finalists and Council to schedule a second round of interviews that will be held as part of a three-day event.

The first day will begin with finalists attending the Jan. 15 Council briefing meeting in the morning and afternoon. Cooke and Santana will be invited to tour city facilities the following day. Finalists and their spouses will be invited to a private social gathering that evening with the Council.

The Council will split into groups of three to interview the finalists as part of the Jan. 17 Council retreat. Committee members and Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins will serve as team captains. Each finalist will be interviewed by all five groups in succession.

Committee members will be reaching out to local leaders in the Oakland and Raleigh-Durham areas to obtain more information about Santana and Cooke.

The Council will meet immediately after the second round of interviews is complete to discuss timing and the next steps in the process.

Original post: The Dallas City Council this afternoon is expected to name its “short list” of candidates for city manager.

Six finalists are in the running, including interim Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez. Other finalists are from Ohio, California, Georgia and North Carolina.

Gonzalez got into hot water last fall over his handling of an ordinance cracking down on Uber, the app-based limo service. Gonzalez admitted he had “made a mistake” when handling the ordinance over the summer.

The Dallas city manager oversees 12,000 employees and a budget of almost $3 billion.

The council hopes to name a new manager by the end of the month.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.
Doualy Xaykaothao is a newscaster and reporter for NPR, based in Culver City. She returned to NPR for this role in 2018, and is responsible for writing, producing, and delivering national newscasts. She also reports on breaking news stories for NPR.