A longtime assistant manager who has never before led a municipal government is set to trade the Lone Star state for the City of Destiny.
T.C. Broadnax, an assistant city manager for San Antonio, was tapped to become Tacoma’s next city manager Tuesday, after the City Council narrowly selected him as the top choice among three finalists vying for the city’s top job.
“I am actually very humbled, honored and excited at the same time,” Broadnax said in a telephone interview late Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to working with the mayor and city council, as well as with the citizens in moving Tacoma forward and making it all that it can become.”
In the end, five council members — Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Marty Campbell, Jake Fey, Lauren Walker and Victoria Woodards — supported Broadnax, citing his diverse background during an 18-year career in government that’s highlighted by strong budget experience.
Three other members — David Boe, Joe Lonergan and Spiro Manthou — supported Lakewood City Manager Andrew Neiditz, while Councilman Ryan Mello backed interim Tacoma City Manager Rey Arellano.
Several council members said any of the three finalists could have led Tacoma. But Broadnax convinced a majority that, even as the youngest finalist and the only one yet to serve in a top management role, he’s ready to lead.
“I think he’s willing to make an investment in Tacoma, and I’m willing to make an investment in him,” Woodards said. “He’s eager.”
Supporters also described an air of confidence and energy that Broadnax exuded during recent finalist interviews – leadership qualities they said Tacoma needs to move into a new era.
“I wanted to pick someone … who didn’t necessarily see this as the last stop in his career,” Fey said.
Broadnax, who earns about $164,000 per year, is one of four assistant managers in San Antonio – the third tier in a city hierarchy that includes two deputy managers and the top administrator, City Manager Sheryl Scully.
In a city with a 1.3 million population – more than six times larger than Tacoma – he oversees five city departments, including historic preservation, code enforcement, public libraries, planning and development services and animal control.
Broadnax is described as a quiet, but effective manager whose won high marks from a diverse group of stakeholders. One lobbyist for developers described him as a responsive city liaison for building interests, while historic preservation supporters credit him for strengthening and pioneering city preservation programs.
“He is a very solid professional and understands the workings of city government and would be an asset to any organization,” Scully said during a recent interview.
One of the qualities that set Broadnax apart for Strickland was varied management experience in a big city.
“What appeals to me most is that he sees the world from the lens of a larger city,” Strickland said. “We need someone who can think long term and can visualize what Tacoma can be.”
Before joining Scully’s staff in 2006, Broadnax served for ten years as a top assistant and special projects coordinator in Pompano Beach, Florida, where he was in charge of more than $200 million in city budgets. From 1993 to 1996, he also served as senior budget and management analyst for Broward County, Florida.
Broadnax said he will tap all of his experience to help him lead in Tacoma.
“Obviously, it’s been a career goal of mine to be a city manager,” he said. “In reality, I’ve been training all my professional life for this opportunity. I’m excited about it.”
The council’s decision ends a three-month executive recruiting process to replace former City Manager Eric Anderson, who was fired in July. In all, about 70 candidates applied for the job.
The council’s choice didn’t come easily. After a three-day intensive interview process with finalists earlier this month, council members held several executive sessions before opting last week to take an additional week to make their selection. Members said they took the extra time to call references and make other checks about the finalists.
“They’re all excellent human beings and skilled at what they do,” Walker said.
Earlier Tuesday, council members met yet again behind closed doors for two hours.
“We could probably be well served by any of them,” Campbell said. “But at some point we have to make a decision and move forward.”
Neiditz’s supporters praised him for his deep local knowledge and broad connections that Tacoma could quickly tap.
In backing the Lakewood manager, Manthou said he wasn’t sure Broadnax was ready for Tacoma’s top job.
“I’ve got to go with expierence,” Manthou said.
Council members also roundly lauded Arellano for effectively assuming the manager’s role and dealing with an emerging city budget crisis.
Arellano, who noted he hopes to continue working in Tacoma as a deputy, said Tuesday he was “humbled and honored” to serve in the interim role.
“I have great trust and respect in the council for really making the right choice for the future of the city,” he said after Tuesday’s meeting.
Broadnax said he learned of his selection Tuesday after his father and several colleagues watched the Tacoma meeting online and called to congratulate him.
The city will now move ahead to negotiate an employment contract with Broadnax; the pay range for the job is about $185,000 to $235,000. City officials said no timeline is set to work out a deal; but Strickland noted it took about a month to negotiate a contract with Anderson.