The Knope of the Week recognizes sustained excellence in local government. It’s the Heisman Trophy, Noble Peace Prize, James Beard Award all rolled into one. Many have vied for the honor over the years, but only a few winners have emerged. President Obama, Bono, and Cam Newton — none of them can list Knope of the Week recipient on their resume. (Fast forward to 12 minute mark for the Knope mention.)
A.C. Gonzalez has built a strong record in municipal management for more than 28 years, with 14 years serving the City of Dallas as an Assistant City Manager. During his tenure, he has spearheaded projects that have changed the face of Dallas, including the development of the Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel, management of the Love Field Modernization Program, negotiations of the Dallas Stars Reunion Arena lease, which brought the professional sports franchise to Dallas.
The Dallas City Council appointed Gonzalez as City Manager on January 21, 2014. As City Manager, Gonzalez is responsible for the daily operations of the municipal organization. He manages a staff of approximately 13,000 employees and a budget of nearly 3 billion.
Most recently, Gonzalez served as interim City Manager beginning in June 2013. He was also the First Assistant City Manager overseeing Aviation, Dallas Fire-Rescue, Municipal Courts, Office of Emergency Management, and the Dallas Police Department. Over the past 5 years, he has also managed Convention and Event Services, Housing/ Community Services, Economic Development, Planning and Development Services.
In those roles, Gonzalez not only led the effort to build the Omni, but also organized street car advocates in order to win a federal grant expanding street cars back into downtown Dallas. He was responsible for several Tax Increment Finance zones and negotiated numerous development projects growing the city’s tax base.
Gonzalez has served two stints as Assistant City Manager of the City of Dallas. The first, from 1988 to 1995, and the current one starting in 2006. Before returning to the City of Dallas, Gonzalez was the President of Buerger Investments, a privately owned investment company.
What We Learned
More than 25 staffers from around Dallas-Fort Worth area attended the second in-person event for the SW ELGL chapter. A.C covered a wide range of topics from education to problem solving, below are a few memorable quotes from the Dallas city manager.
“All the things we do end up being about the interactions between people. You need to connect.”
“I’d never been in a classroom. I got an education in education.” regarding his experience in Austin ISD.
“There’s a difference between being an assistant city manager and a city manager. Sometimes your personal life can suffer.”
“Most of my academic background was about solving problems and knowing what the facts are. This environment is very similar.”
Word on the Street
John McCarter, City of Sugar Land, TX
“The Dallas metropolitan area is one of the most exciting in the county; the City of Dallas continues to be a model for communities across the state and around the country. We are eternally grateful to AC Gonzalez for taking time out of his busy schedule to mentor the generation of managers by sharing his experiences with us.”
Laci McKinney, City of Coppell, TX
“One thought that stayed on my mind is the human competencies he mentioned a leader should strive to have. Human competencies are engrained in you, however the technical can be taught.”
Sarah Fickes, City of Mesquite, TX
“I attended the event yesterday with AC Gonzalez, the Dallas City Manager. This was such a great event! I really enjoyed that it was a smaller group and was more of an open dialogue. We were able to ask questions in a relaxed setting, which was really beneficial. Definitely looking forward to attending more ELGL events!”
“AC offered great pieces of insight and I appreciated the networking opportunity.”
Harrison Wicks, City of Coppell
“Thanks ELGL for the opportunity to listen to A.C Gonzales. Truly awesome!”
Ryan Adams, City of Irving, TX
I’d have to say it was great to see his approach to managing his city. He boiled down the 3 big challenges of solving municipal problems:
- Know the facts – most work will be finding creative ways to gather info
- Create a brilliant idea – which often is the simplest solution but just difficult to see
- Develop and communicate that idea in a way that scratches the itch of all the stakeholders.
He also made the case for managers, as generalists, to have a broad (if not deep) knowledge of a variety of topics. People like people, and like to work with people, who they feel are like them and interested in their interests. If you can find some common ground with most people, you’ll often find success together