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McDonald announces retirement from city service

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 by Jo Clifton

After 31 years of service to the city, Deputy City Manager Michael McDonald has announced that he will retire at the end of December.

McDonald, who had a distinguished career in the Austin Police Department and served as the first African-American assistant police chief in Austin’s history, moved over to City Hall in 2002 to work as an assistant city manager under then City Manager Toby Futrell.

City Manager Marc Ott appointed McDonald as his deputy in 2012, and he is the first person to hold that position.

Ott told Mayor Lee Leffingwell and City Council about McDonald’s decision in a memo praising McDonald’s service.

“There is arguably no one in the city of Austin with a more thorough and comprehensive understanding of the Austin community, our history, challenges and successes over the past 30 years. I’m particularly proud of the leadership he has provided in developing and executing our African-American Quality of Life Initiative, and of his unwavering commitment to diversity and excellence in our public safety labor force,” wrote Ott.

“In all my years in this profession, I can’t say that I’ve ever worked with someone with such a unique combination of skills, abilities and wisdom,” Ott wrote.

McDonald started his career with the city in 1983 as a police officer even though he had some doubts about the wisdom of such service, he told the Monitor. McDonald explained that when he was growing up in East Austin during the late 1960s and early 1970s, he had some negative encounters with police officers. So even though he had been interested in being a police officer as a child, he began to think it was not a good idea.

However, when McDonald went to the police station to inquire about the possibility of joining the force, he fortuitously encountered Capt. Louie White, who has been described as one of the most influential African-Americans in the city at the time. McDonald said White was “a real icon in the African-American community.”

When McDonald explained his reservations, White recalled his experiences in the ’40s and ’50s. White told him, “As African-Americans, if we expect to make changes in law enforcement, some of us have to be willing to join the organization. It can’t all be done from the outside.” So McDonald decided to put in his application. He was hired soon after. McDonald said he is proud of the changes he helped make in APD, particularly with respect to further diversifying the force.

McDonald said he is also very proud of all the work he did at the city to enhance social services.

McDonald said that even though he has done a lot of traveling throughout the United States as a city employee, he has not been able to travel with his wife, Sharon. He said he looks forward to spending more time with her, visiting Europe and Africa, as well as spending more time with his two sons, Marcus and Michael Jr.

McDonald added that he is planning to continue his work as an adjunct professor at St. Edwards University, where he teaches community relations. He also plans to continue to teach at the Law Enforcement Management Command College, where he teaches officers such skills as getting along with City Hall.

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