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The four finalists for Gatesville city manager are, from left, James Fisher, Scott Albert, Neal Wendele and David Harris.

Gatesville will soon have a new city manager, and local residents had an opportunity to meet the four finalists for the position during a meet and greet session on March 22 in the Gatesville City Council Chamber.

The candidates are Scott Albert, James Fisher, David Harris and Neal Wendele.

Wendele is city manager in Todd Mission, Texas, 50 miles northwest of Houston. He said he was attracted to the Gatesville opportunity “because this is home. I grew up in Harker Heights and my Dad was stationed at Fort Hood. I am happy where I am but I got excited when I saw the Gatesville opening. I applied right away.”

Wendele said his first priority will be “meeting all the employees, the people who are in the trenches and make everything happen. I will ride around and get to know the community. This is the kind of place I am really looking forward to raising my family in if so chosen.”

Albert, who is city manager in Hondo, said Gatesville’s location is what interested him “personally and professionally” and that he sees “great opportunities for Gatesville.”

Albert’s background includes helping with local government development in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the proximity of Fort Hood also appeals to him.

“I think it’s a great fit for me with my background in economic development,” he said.

Albert said his first priority would be “to get to know the community, civic organizations, different leaders and listen to staff about areas to work on. Bill (Parry, the outgoing city manager) has done a wonderful job but there’s always room for improvement and to move Gatesville forward for the future.”

Fisher has worked as city manager of Brenham and other communities.

He described Gatesville as “a great community with a lot of history” and said he also appreciates the city’s central location.

“My kids and grandkids live in the Dallas area and (Gatesville) is in close proximity to that area and everything. It’s a great community - there are a lot of positive things you can find here.”

Fisher said his first priority would be “getting to know the community and staff and working with the community and schools.

“Every community has its hot-button issues and I would look at gathering information and then collaborating. I am excited for this opportunity and I appreciate the people coming out (to the meet and greet event). The citizens care about the community and I appreciate them getting involved and being part of the process.”

Harris’ most recent city management experience was in Balcones Heights, Texas, in the San Antonio area.

Asked what attracted him to the opportunity in Gatesville, Harris said, “the bright lights and big city - no,” and laughed.

“I see this as a grand opportunity to work in a town that has a rich history and tradition of great government that has been carried on through the years.”

He said the strong military presence in the area, which is similar to that in San Antonio, also appeals to him.

Harris said his first priority would be “to listen and to gather information. It takes time to get to know people and understand what is most important to them. We all have a story that needs to be told and I want to listen and then draw conclusions before going to a plan of action. This community has a tradition of great leaders and I hope to continue that. I also realize it’s a team effort and the city manager is like the head coach.”

Mayor Gary Chumley thanked local residents for attending the meeting.

“We want to get community input and we really appreciate you being here,” he said.

The Gatesville City Council was scheduled to meet starting at 8:30 a.m. March 23 to interview each of the candidates.

Although Parry’s term as city manager officially ended Feb. 28, he is continuing to serve as a part-time consultant for the city until a new city manager can take office.

Parry said he has been impressed with the efforts of Strategic Government Resources (SGR) in helping the city to focus its search. SGR also helped guide the selection of new police chief Brad Hunt.

He said his role in the selection process has been limited.