Farmersville axes public works director amid parks problems

(Rigo Moran)

Farmersville City Council terminates Jeff Dowlen as public works director following community concerns about maintenance issues

FARMERSVILLE – After outcry from the community for some better upkeep at the city’s parks, Farmersville City Council voted to terminate Jeff Dowlen from his position as public works director due to maintenance concerns, prompting a search for his successor.

Amid an ongoing search for a new city manager, the Farmersville City Council unanimously voted on April 28 to terminate their contract with Dowell, the city’s longtime public works director. According to the staff report on the matter, the decision arose from “a willful breach of duty or a habitual neglect of duty.”

“There were just a lot of problems,” councilmember Greg Gomez said. “There’s just been a lot of concern from the (community) about public works not keeping up with maintenance and care of public facilities. So we just chose to go in a different direction.”

Farmersville Mayor Tina Hernandez was inquired for further information on the decision, but declined to comment. However, according to councilmember Gomez, the council has appointed police lieutenant Troy Everett as acting public works director for the time being. He said the city will be advertising the position soon in parallel with their search for a new city manager. 

“In my 12 years (on the council), Jeff was public works director most of the time, and there had been issues that popped up that seemingly either didn’t get taken care of or fell off the list somewhere. So it just culminated with the park situation this year,” Gomez said.

To fill Dowell’s position, Gomez noted the city is looking for some with public work experience in water, sewer and parks as well as a hands-on approach to management.

“We really need somebody that’s just willing to just get in there and isn’t afraid to work alongside the other guys because it’s such a small department,” Gomez said.

The decision to hire and terminate staff usually falls under the responsibilities of the city manager. However, since there is no interim or permanent city manager for Farmersville at the moment, the decision was ultimately left up to the council.

To get the search for these missing positions underway, the council created an Ad Hoc committee to conduct the search. The council also said at the special meeting on May 13 that financial director Steve Huntley and Police Chief Jay Brock are co-acting city managers until an interim is hired.

The decision to terminate the city’s contract with Dowell follows a long string of complaints from the community about the maintenance of the local parks. At a meeting on March 25, many residents voiced their concerns about how the fields are now dangerous to continue using for kids sporting events. For their reasons, they said gopher holes and tripping hazards were no longer able to be seen due to how overgrown the grass was.

The residents asked the council to contract some sort of lawn care company to upkeep the fields so they can be used once again. However, by the next meeting on April 8, it was noted that public works had cleaned up the fields.

At that same meeting, the state of the parks continued to cause tension among the council and city staff when the draft budget suggested a 14% cut to public works when the parks had already not been well maintained.

Now that the city has no director of public works, the city has discovered there were more issues in need of attention than originally anticipated, which was noted by council at the May 13 special meeting. For the time being, the city staff is all working together to keep up with the needs of the city.

“I’m really grateful because all of our senior staffers had to step up and fill in this role of missing city manager and missing public works director,” Gomez said. “I’m really happy that there’s a lot of teamwork and that they’re holding things together.”

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