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New Mission city manager calls finances, communication top priorities

Mike Perez, who Mission City Council hired as city manager Monday, has money on his mind.

Council hired Perez, 72, as city manager Monday after former city manager Randy Perez made his second — apparently irreversible — resignation announcement last Thursday.

A veteran Rio Grande Valley public servant, Mike Perez served as McAllen’s city manager for two decades and earned a reputation as a proficient municipal reformer as Weslaco’s city manager.

Mission isn’t facing the sort of scandal Weslaco was when Mike Perez took the reins there in 2014.

Still, he told the Progress Times Wednesday, a significant course correction in city operations is likely in order in Mission.

“This is gonna be a marathon,” Mike Perez said. “The mayor and council have given me some marching orders, they want me to figure out what’s going on financially with the city and work on being more transparent and take a look at all the other operations to make sure that we’re delivering on the highest level of service to citizens in the most efficient and practical way.”

Questions over the city’s financial health sprouted up in late 2023, when the Mission Economic Development Corporation learned that the city had failed to pay it $2.7 million in sales tax money earlier that year.

The city attributed that decision — without saying who made it — as prompted by cash flow problems tied to projects in the summer of 2023.

Mission paid the corporation its money, implemented some policy changes and moved on.

The official stance was that the issue had been put to bed. Assistant City Manager Andy Garcia described it as a “learning experience.”

The Progress Times, however, kept ferreting out more signs of financial instability from 2023. At one point cash flow issues appeared to jeopardize the city’s chances of receiving a sizable grant. An assistant city manager asked a bank about receiving a $5 million line of credit. S&P Global Ratings, a financial services company, expressed concerns over the municipality’s liquidity.

Just two days into the job, Mike Perez said the city’s finances do in fact appear to be less than optimal.

“We’re spending more money than we’re taking in,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. I think we’ve taken on a lot of responsibility because the city wants to be a good city, but I always break the budget down into needs, wants and desires…And I think that we have to take a look at how we’re spending money and take a look at what’s a need, what’s a want and what’s a desire.”

If Mike Perez is worried, he doesn’t show it. He was frank Wednesday describing his opinion: the city probably has a year or two of difficult financial correction ahead of it, some tough decisions to make and a good deal of work to do.

“I think we can get there,” he said. “It’s gonna be what I’d call rolling up your sleeves and hard work. You’re not going to be able to wave a wand and take one or two actions and you’re there. We kinda got into this situation over years, and you never can fix situations that occurred over years overnight. And they understand that — the mayor and commission understand that.”

Mike Perez isn’t wasting any time getting that process started. Council has a workshop slated for Friday on South Padre Island to discuss fiscal goals and objectives.

Mike Perez’s other priority — transparency — wasn’t a particular strong suit for the city during the deferred funds turmoil.

In the 100 days between the Progress Times first making the MEDC funds deferral public knowledge and council hiring Mike Perez to replace Randy Perez, Randy Perez proved reluctant to talk finances publicly.

He didn’t live up to commitments to news outlets to sit down for finance interviews. At least a dozen attempts by the Progress Times to reach him for comment on a variety of stories resulted in a total of seven text messages and zero phone calls. The city generally wheeled out Garcia, a recent hire who wasn’t working for the city for most of 2023, to answer questions about liquidity and cashflow.

Mike Perez — who picks up his phone when you call him — says he’s hired someone to assess how city leadership understands issues and how it makes them. The goal, he says, is a team that’s in-step and coherent. A team that’s on the same page about stuff.

“Once we understand from the standpoint of the city council and the mayor how they process information and how the management team processes, then we understand each other and it’s easier,” he said. “When we understand how you process information, then it makes it easier on how I’m going to present information to you.”

According to Mike Perez, the city’s paying him $300,000 a year under a two-year contract.

He’ll make $50,000 a year more than Randy Perez, who’s staying on for the leadership transition through the end of the month.

Mike Perez won’t, however, get the half a year’s salary severance written into Randy Perez’s contract. He says he asked for just 30 days of severance.

Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza said she’s pleased with the city’s new hire, citing Mike Perez’s years of experience and credentials.

Mike says he’ll do his best to live up to his reputation.

“I’m gonna try to be a good listener,” he said. “I’m gonna try to be fiscally responsible. I’m gonna try to work on delivering the same quality of high service that the residents have been used to receiving from the city.”

 

2 Comments

  1. Joe debbie on March 26, 2024 at 9:48 pm

    Sounds great 👍, How about we start with qualifications and certifications licensing for all department heads.Shoot maybe even City Hall..

  2. manuel garcia on March 28, 2024 at 9:31 am

    ….All the luck to this man …. too many times we see a perfect portrait coming into office and another nice portrait of one leaving ,,, city of mission and its politics have ruined the integrity of the city… just look at the mess its made of itself over the last year…

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