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Search almost over for important Travis County post

Thursday, December 2, 2010 by Michael Kanin

Travis County officials are down to a list of two possible replacements for their retiring executive manager of transportation and natural resources, Joe Gieselman. In Fact Daily has learned that they are the county’s current director of Public Works, Steve Manila, and Marvin Williams, who is believed to be the deputy director of public works in Richmond, Virginia. County Judge Sam Biscoe said that officials could not yet release the name of Williams’ employer because he hadn’t informed them that he had applied for the position.


The Travis County Commissioners Court interviewed both finalists as part of an extended executive session on Tuesday. Though they had hoped to name their choice for the position at the end of the day, the length of the proceedings prevented any action.


Instead, the court expects to make a move next week. Biscoe said that he and his colleagues had very nearly reached a decision and that, whichever direction they move in, the choice would likely be unanimous.


Gieselman abruptly announced his retirement during the citizen’s communications portion of one of the court’s regular Tuesday meetings in August (see In Fact Daily, Sept. 1). His announcement prompted a flurry of county activity that resulted in the vetting of 100 applications by two groups of high-ranking county officials.


According to Biscoe, the applicant pool was then winnowed down to six or seven candidates. Those candidates were interviewed as a panel via the Internet video communication tool Skype. That event resulted in the selection of four finalists.


Those applicants were called to visit with county officials earlier this week. There they met with a group of Travis executives, who then — to the surprise of at least one member of the Commissioners Court — cut two of the finalists.


That left Manila and Williams with dates to meet the court.


Manila’s presence here should come as no shock to county-watchers: Over two stints with the county, he has served in the Transportation and Natural Resources Department under Gieselman. His initial run began in 1994 and ended in 2000, when he left county employment as the director of the Engineering Services Department.


He returned in January of 2006 to begin his time as the county’s director of public works. Travis County’s Public Works Department falls under Gieselman’s current purview. There, Manila is seen as something of a number two to Gieselman.


Though Williams’ employer has not yet been made a matter of public record, the deputy director of public works in Richmond, Virginia, shares his name. According to a bio posted on the city’s Web site, that Marvin Williams oversees a handful of Richmond departments. He’s also had experience as the director of public works for the city of DeLand, Florida.

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