By Eric Butler: PNT staff writer
The Portales City Council appointed Public Works Director Tom Howell as interim city manager in a regular meeting of the council.
At City Hall on Tuesday night, after a closed meeting to discuss replacing outgoing manager Debi Lee, the six council members present unanimously approved Howell to take Lee’s place effective immediately.
Lee has accepted a position as village manager for Ruidoso.
“Tom and Debi worked closely together, and I think Tom is up to date with everything that’s going on with the projects,” said councilor Mike Miller, who introduced the motion. “I think that’s the smoothest transition we could have. Obviously, we thoroughly regret losing Debi — she’s done a wonderful job.”
Miller said he wasn’t sure how long the city would go with an interim manager, but suggested it would be at least a month before a job posting for a permanent city manager would be advertised.
Howell was out of town.
“We’re going to take our time and really take a look at this. There’s good people out there, obviously, because Ruidoso found one,” Miller said. “I think we’re going to get through this transition and get through this centennial celebration and get into the next budget year. Then we’ll see where and how we want to proceed.
“The fact that we can take Tom and make this transition, in my opinion, is also a testament to the good job that Debi has done,” he added. “The sign of a good manager is that they’ve got somebody who can take their place.”
In other business, the council:
• voted to continue to participate with the Eastern Plains Council of Government, which Lee said has been a beneficial arrangement.
“They’ve added some new staff, so they’ve been much more progressive in assisting us with some grant opportunities,” she said.
• approved a resolution encouraging Portales residents to conserve water. City officials hope townspeople with odd-numbered addresses will water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, while even-numbered households will water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
• approved an addendum to an original agreement for services to remodel the old Yam Theatre on Main Street. The project will cost approximately $623,000 and should be finished within a year, planning director Sammy Standefer said.
• received a copy of the new Portales Centennial Book and DVD from Portales News-Tribune publisher Ray Sullivan.
• established rates for services such as copying public records and making fingerprints.