SCHERTZ — There have been very few open dates on Mark Browne’s calendar during his initial days as the new city manager.
He has spent a significant amount of time touring the town’s various agencies and facilities, plus meeting municipal workers, the Galveston native said.
The 63-year-old former city manager of Alamo Heights and Terrell Hills performed similar visits in those places, too.
A 27-year career in the Air Force shaped his approach to getting to know employees in civilian life.
“It’s very difficult to represent these departments to City Council and the community if I don’t really understand what’s going on in their mission,” said Browne, who began his new job Jan. 2 after seven years at Alamo Heights. “It helps them to see me and talk to me, and it helps me to communicate with them.”
The idea behind the introductions, Browne said, is to create a staff eager to always do better.
“I am not saying they are not that way now, but like every team, we can improve our processes,” Browne said. “I would like us to be integrated, be supportive of each other, and be fully functional. What goes along with that for the community is customer service. We want to provide excellent customer service and want to do that at all levels at all times.”
His three-year contract with the city is for an annual base salary of $180,000.
The retired colonel’s new role in Schertz may be his biggest municipal undertaking yet. The University of Alabama alum takes the reins of a town growing residentially and commercially.
According to recent U.S. Census Bureau data, Schertz boasts a population of about 41,000 residents, versus Alamo Heights’ slightly more than 8,400 denizens. A large-scale megaplex owned by EVO Entertainment Group, slated to open in February, will add to a tax base already drawing from several industrial-type businesses.
Browne’s extensive Air Force background has prepared him for the challenge of helping manage Schertz, located close to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph and home to both active-duty and retired military, he indicated.
“An Air Force base is like a city in many ways,” said the former director at JBSA-Randolph. “It has various functions and offers a lot of the same services that a city does. Over my Air Force career I have spent an extensive amount of time working on budgeting and long-range programming of financial resources. I worked on infrastructure projects when I was a staff officer, so I learned the importance of maintaining and improving the infrastructure in a city.”
The veteran said he looks forward to using his background to better cement relations between the city and the base, especially since Schertz’s expansion near the air-flight training facility continues to be an issue.
“I have a good understanding of the military community and their needs,” Browne said. “I think I will be able to relate well to the leadership at JBSA-Randolph, and I have the perspective of understanding their concerns and problems.”
His service years were instrumental in the city’s decision to tab him as its new chief administrator.
“Our previous city manager didn’t have military experience,” said Mayor Michael Carpenter following the announcement of Browne’s hiring. “The preceding city manager before him had some military experience, and previous ones had some or (no experience). (Browne) finished a full (military) career as an officer, and I think that brings something special; the breadth of experience a person gets as they as serve as full colonel in any of our military branches is remarkable.”
For now, Browne is centered on providing improved neighborhood programs and maintaining the city’s parks with limited funding.
“(City staff) really wants to focus on what the community desires,” he said.