Tom Muehlenbeck

Posted on May 23, 2014

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Knope of the Week

The Dean of Texas City Managers. The CEO of Plano.


He has a scholarship named after him, a recreation center named after him, and now, he is the Knope of the Week. Tom Muehlenbeck, the “CEO of Plano”, was the headline speaker at the inaugural SW ELGL forum held in Little Elm, Texas. While Tom is “retired,” he maintains more jobs than most of us. Tom works for Strategic Government Resources and was recently appointed interim city manager in McKinney, Texas.

Background Check


Connect: LinkedIn

Tom Muehlenbeck’s career spans more than 45 years of distinguished public service to city management. He began his career as an assistant city manager for the City of Parsons, Kansas. His first position as citymanager was in 1967 for the City of Atchison, Kansas, a small city of 10,000. Tom also served as city manager for the cities of College Park, Georgia; Valdosta, Georgia; Galveston, Texas; and Virginia Beach,Virginia. He also served as deputy city manager for the City of Austin. In December 1987, he began his 23-year tenure as the city manager for the City of Plano, Texas. During his service in Plano, the city tripled in size.Tom has been an active member of the Texas City Management Association for 33 years. He served as president of the association in 2002. In the same year, TCMA recognized him as the first recipient of theLifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes the city management professional who has made significantcontributions to the field of local government management for more than 10 years. In 2010, TCMA awarded him the Mentoring Award in Memory of Gary Gwyn. Tom is one of only five TCMA members to receive thehonor of Distinguished member since the association began in 1914. Tom also served as an InternationalCity/County Management Association (ICMA) regional vice president from 2007-2010 and was recognized by ICMA in 2010 for 45 years of membership.

What We Learned


Most difficult part of the job? Keeping your family role together when work gets difficult.

Tom has logged more than 46 years of public service.

Fear not the newspapers. They are a tool to keep the community informed.

Muehlenbeck law: if something good happens – council gets credit. If it goes bad – the manager must fall on the sword.

Tom Muehlenbeck draws a clear line between work and play. No socializing with council or employees

@TransformGov awards the “Thomas H. Muehlenbeck Award for Excellence in #LocalGov

Tom retired after 23 years as Plano’s city manager.


Word on the Street


Dusty McAfee, Town of Little Elm, Community Service Manager

I enjoyed how Tom was able to chronicle all 12 tenants with relevant anecdotes and personal testimony from his vast experience.  It created a new appreciation for the daily application of ethics in public service in addition to how the code of ethics can assist in avoiding common pitfalls and landmines we all encounter.

Jim Parrish, City of Plano, Deputy City Manager

I did not have the pleasure to work with Mr. Muehlenbeck, however I had the privilege of watching his leadership for over 20 years.  Mr. Muehlenbeck’s always demonstrated a high level of ethics and character throughout his career.  He set the standard for countless public servants not only in Texas but throughout the country.

Lori Philyaw , Strategic Goverment Resources, Director of Marketingtumblr_lrxp346rgs1qzsth0o1_500_496943

Enjoying listening to the legendary Tom Muehlenbeck talk about his city management career.

Ryan Adams, City of Irving, Assistant to the City Manager

Getting my MPA and starting my career in DFW, I have often heard the name Muehlenbeck – even if I couldn’t always spell it correctly.  He along with other local pillars of the profession were the examples of what results from a career of hard work and passion for local government.

I was curious that he chose the ICMA Code of Ethics as the topic of discussion, thinking that there would be a host of other experiences he could share.  As Tom dove into the code and its guidelines, I came to realize two things:

  1. I was fooling myself in thinking that I knew them well enough.  I didn’t.  There are so many subtle nuances to the code and it takes time for them to absorb into your mind.
  2. How many ethical dilemmas I’m confronted with on a weekly basis.  They seem to sneak up on you and work their way into your work life.

If Tom Muehlenbeck’s discussion has done anything it’s caused me to reexamine the Code of Ethics and make it a priority in my development.

Greg Anderson, Strategic Government Resources, Online Curriculum Developer

The top takeaway for me. Regardless of the context – one conversation or a multi-million dollar business deal – be ethical. Tom shared numerous examples of major high level wins, but he also shared examples of individual conversations and relationships and his desire to always filter those conversations and relationships through an ethical lens. We need more leaders like him.

Supplemental Reading


Muehlenbeck chosen as Galveston interim city manager

Can I Bum a Ride to Forum with Tom Muehlenbeck

Plano named one of Top 10 best cities for kids

McKinney names longtime Plano leader as interim

Tom Muehlenbeck retires: “He’s the CEO of Plano”

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