Thursday, November 10, 2005

Defeat of Proposition 9 " confirms a lack of trust in mobility authorities around the state."

Brechtel set for 'very tough job' at toll road group


Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2005

Former City Manager Terry Brechtel, who is no stranger to controversy, will be the new face of toll roads in San Antonio.

The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority offered her the director's job Wednesday, effective at the first of the year. Her salary, which will be negotiated, ranges from $150,000 to $185,000 a year.

"I welcome her to a very tough job," said board member Bill McBride.

Brechtel, who will replace Tom Griebel, has seen trouble before, and on Wednesday she spoke boldly of how she's ready for what could be turbulent times.

"This is going to be a challenging job, and that's exactly why I'm here," she said.

Brechtel has worked for 24 years in local government, including 31/2 as San Antonio's city manager, a job she quit last year after a six-day standoff with then-Mayor Ed Garza. But she left with the respect of many in the community.

"The Alamo RMA has made a wise and thoughtful decision, one that will benefit our region as we work to relieve traffic congestion," said Joe Krier, president of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.

As city manager, Brechtel oversaw an annual budget of more than $1.5 billion and a staff of more than 12,000. Mobility authority board members said her knowledge of finances, regulations, negotiations and management is needed to deal with major players from world-class toll companies.

"I want someone who is bright, capable, sharp, cautious to be representing us," Chairman Bill Thornton said.

The unanimous vote to hire Brechtel came a day after Texas voters defeated Proposition 9, which means board members' terms will be limited to two years instead of six.

The outcome confirms a lack of trust in mobility authorities around the state, critic David Ramos of Texas Toll Party told the San Antonio board. He added that hiring Brechtel, a government insider, doesn't help.

"They need to be listening to the grass-roots citizens," he said.

Board members lamented being stuck to two-year-only terms, saying more time would have added stability. But they also said voters have spoken. Brechtel agreed and said she's used to turnovers in bosses, anyway.

Griebel, who's leaving the director's job so he can spend more time with family in Austin, said he was pleased that Brechtel was tapped to replace him. He offered one bit of advice, telling her she'll have to adjust to having just a handful of staff, at least for a while.

"You have to know how to empty the trash and sweep the floor," he said with a grin.

© 2005 San Antonio Express-News: