After two tumultuous years, interim Palmview city manager reflects on changes

Interim City Manager Leo Olivares will leave Palmview City Hall in January after 20 months on the job.

The Palmview City Council hired Hidalgo County Economic Development Director Michael Leo on Tuesday. He will start Jan. 1.

LeoHeadshot“My intention was never to stay here long-term,” Olivares said, adding that he originally planned to stay six months.

After the initial six-month contract, the City Council asked Olivares to stay another six months — and then another.

Palmview started planning the transition during October, when Olivares said he planned to explore other opportunities.

“It’s not sadness. It’s not regret. It’s not disappointment,” Olivares said. “It’s just: All things have an end. I think the time has come.”

When he walks out the door, Olivares will leave city hall a very different place.

The shakeup started in November 2016, when the Progress for Palmview candidates — Joel Garcia, Linda Sarabia and Javier Ramirez — joined the City Council.

Assistant City Manager David Nacianceno left for the La Joya Independent School District. City Attorney Rick Perez quit. The City Council fired City Manager Ramon Segovia and City Secretary Bertha Garza.

The Palmview Police Department also went through a major transition.
Palmview termined police Chief Chris Barrera. Police Cmdr. Lenny Sanchez left for the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office. The city also fired police Capt. Saul Uvalle to save money.

Olivares, who accepted the job in April 2017, worked with the City Council to rebuild from scratch.

“It’s not just ‘Oh, what are the departments doing better?’ It’s also the council. What can they do better?” Olivares said. “It’s been a wholesale type of change here.”

Palmview hired Finance Director Rachel Chapa, who had worked with the city of Hidalgo, to keep a closer eye on the city budget. Annette Villarreal, the former McAllen city secretary, accepted the same job in Palmview. And police Lt. Gilberto Zamora became the new chief, inheriting a much smaller command staff.

The city also hired Rodolfo Flores III, the former billing manager for the Agua Special Utility District, to supervise public works, planning and code enforcement.

“You want to have those difficult conversations and make those calls. I think everyone has been receptive to the message,” Olivares said. “It’s not perfect, but there’s a sense of family and community here. And teamwork.”

The biggest challenge remains the city budget, Olivares said, adding that Palmview needs to build a healthy fund balance and put away money for emergencies.

“We’ve kind of turned the corner, but we need to pick up speed now,” Olivares said.

Olivares said he’ll work closely with Leo during December, making the transition as smooth as possible.
When January arrives, Olivares said he’ll start exploring new opportunities.

“I’m going to still look at city management but I might do something private sector now,” Olivares said. “I’m exploring a few things but nothing definite yet. So I’ll be around.”

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