Muehlenbeck chosen as Galveston interim city manager

File Photo – Tom Muehlenbeck retired in February after 23 years as Plano’s city manager, but this week he stepped back into a city government role by accepting an interim city manager position with the city of Galveston.

PLANO — Former Plano City Manager Tom Muehlenbeck has gone full circle with a return to Galveston, where he previously held the city manager position in the late 1970s.

Muehlenbeck accepted an interim city manager position that began on Monday.

"I'm excited to be back in city management," Muehlenbeck said. "I really enjoyed retirement starting February 1 of this year, but I was ready to get back, even after 46 years of public service."

Brian Maxwell had been serving as interim city manager while Galveston looked for a replacement for Steve LeBlanc, who was dismissed in May. Maxwell may be considered for the permanent position but for now has returned to his role as assistant city manager.

Mayor Joe Jaworski said the city will start considering finalists for the city manager position before Thanksgiving, but Muehlenbeck will likely be needed until February of next year.

"His tenure here in Galveston was many years ago," Jaworski said. "It was at the beginning of his career, and it's kind of touching that upon retirement his focus was to come back and help us in this interim challenge."

There was some initial hesitation by some of the Galveston City Council and the mayor when it came to contracting with Texas First Group. The company finds replacements for city personnel and had selected Muehlenbeck and two other candidates for the interim position.

At a July 13 meeting, the council voted 4-3 to approve the contract, which will cost the city approximately $15,000 a month from a reserve fund, The Daily News reported. Jaworski said there were arguments on either side, but the main issue was the cost of hiring a new interim city manager when there was already one in place.

"Another reason not to do it was further change or instability of having to bring in a new man," Jaworski said. "One reason to do it was the fact that Mr. Maxwell said he was considering applying for the permanent position. We didn't want our interim to be seeking the permanent seat."

There was also the sentiment that Muehlenbeck would bring with him a wealth of experience.

"Tom is a dean of city managers in Texas," Jaworski said. "He stood out head and shoulders among the field of three. He has a certain quality that's immediately identifiable but hard to describe."

After a split vote to approve the contract with Texas First Group, the choice for Muehlenbeck was unanimous by the council. He is getting up to speed this week on recovery efforts from Hurricane Ike that hit in 2008, grants awarded to the city and projects coming online.

"Those are the things that are going to keep me awfully busy," Muehlenbeck said. "We're also right in the middle of presenting a budget."

He said the challenges in Galveston are somewhat similar to the same ones Plano faces, such as property devaluation and a reduction in sales tax revenues.

"It's not that uncommon; it's just a matter of magnitude," Muehlenbeck said.

Until Galveston finds a new city manager who can live up to expectations, Plano's former city manager should be a good fit.

"Plano was a city that during his time grew magnificently," Jaworski said. "I'd like to see some lessons learned from Tom Muehlenbeck shared with our team down here."

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