By: Kylie Cooper Photos by: Rachel Benavides
KC: It’s been a little over five months since you’ve been appointed to the position of Assistant City Manager. How have these first few months been?
NCY: Wow, I’ve been running 100 miles per hour. The city is growing, and we must juggle a lot of priorities to keep pace with that growth. However, that is the way I prefer it, as I have had to sprint my entire working career. I’m happy and I’m starting to get settled in. I would like to believe that I am at a point where I am shifting away from drinking from the proverbial “firehose” – rather, I am becoming more comfortable and proactive when addressing some of the challenges that we have across the various departments in the city.
KC: What inspired you to go for this position in the first place?
NCY: I started my civilian career in Virginia doing similar work in local government. When I saw this opportunity available in Corpus Christi, I was intrigued, given that I’m from Houston. After 23 years of traveling with the military and four years working in Virginia, I’ve never had an opportunity to be so close to home.
But what really solidified the decision for me was when I came to do an in-person interview with the city. I was able to gain the vision of the City’s Executive Leadership Team, and felt it was a mission that I wanted to be part of. After five months, I can say that I made a good decision. The work is interesting, the team is great, and every day I am afforded an opportunity to help push the city forward.
KC: Both your education and career have been largely centered around public service. What do you think initially drew you to the field, and where does your passion for it continue to come from?
NCY: That’s an interesting question. I really believe that public service gives you the opportunity to work for an ideal that is greater than yourself. I’m really attracted to that fact. I know that what I’m contributing to now in 2021 is going to affect generations perhaps 20, 25, or even 30 years from now. We are literally writing history when we walk into our offices. The thought is daunting, and I can’t think of a more rewarding responsibility.
KC: What are some of the immediate goals you have been working toward during these first few months in your position? More forward-thinking goals in your position?
NCY: Well, unfortunately, I arrived during the middle of February’s ice storm. So, my first goal was to help the community restabilize after suffering such an extreme weather event. That included removing dead vegetation and restoring landscaping via the Parks and Recreation Department. On the Gas side of the house, we had to figure out a way to mitigate the financial impact that surging gas prices had on our customers’ bills. In Solid Waste, we had to put together an emergency plan to assist our residents with removing brush and debris caused by the storm.
We are not out of the woods yet, but I feel that we are in a good place. Now that recovery efforts aren’t as intense, my time is being freed up. I can now look at some of our departments’ long-term needs. Our Master Plan for Parks and Recreation will help us have the right amenities and services in the places where we live and play, the Solid Waste Department is assessing our recycling strategy, and our Gas Department is putting together a plan to increase our presence in the residential energy market.
I’m also happy to announce that we launched a new city department: The Neighborhood Services Department was established to consolidate community-related services under one management team. This effort will allow us to provide a faster response to blight, infrastructure issues, and code compliance concerns in our communities. We are currently putting together signature programs for the department that will help us delineate ourselves from the way business was conducted in the past.
KC: You’re also a decorated retired U.S. Army officer. How has that aspect of your life and career carried over into the work you currently do?
NCY: In the U.S. Army, I spent my last ten years working as a Civil Affairs Officer. The Civil Affairs branch is what I like to call the “local government arm” of the U.S. military. Rather than working in local communities, we deploy and assist foreign governments with engaging and providing essential services for their disenfranchised citizens. It was very rewarding to identify a problem, address that issue, and receive immediate feedback on whether the solution worked or not.
That was an effort I wanted to continue after retiring from the Army. That opportunity was provided to me via work in local government, and I’m happy to be afforded the chance to perform that work here in the City of Corpus Christi.
KC: What do you find to be some of the greatest challenges when it comes to working as a public servant? Greatest rewards?
NCY: Regarding the greatest challenges, I’d say that local government is still the government. Government business moves at a slower pace than what I, and I’m sure we all, would like to see. It’s frustrating at times when you want to assist a citizen with a request quickly, but you can’t. Often, there are processes in place that you must follow, and because of those procedures, the response time is slowed down. It’s a little frustrating, but those measures keep us in compliance with state and federal law, so we must make sure that they are adhered to.
One of the greatest rewards is when you finally can deliver a response to a citizen in need. Often, I will receive feedback like, “Wow! I can’t believe someone not only took the time to listen to me, but also got up and did something about it.” That is very satisfying. It’s great when one of our residents learns that we may not always be able to help as much or as fast we would like to, but we are working very hard on their behalf every day.
KC: Where do you see Corpus Christi’s greatest potential for growth?
NCY: I would say in our downtown area. Our downtown area is underdeveloped and under-occupied. That’s startling given that we are a destination of choice for tourists from around the world. The city has recently agreed to invest $20 million in the municipal marina. In conjunction with the leadership and efforts of the Downtown Management District, I think we are going to do great things with recruiting new businesses, housing, and investments in our city’s economic center.
KC: How do you enjoy free time?
NCY: What free time? No, really, my free time is spent with my family. Being closer to my family was one of the greatest drivers to my decision to move to Corpus Christi, so I try to spend as much time with them as I can. Being in the military for over 23 years, I missed a lot. My nieces and nephews grew up. I have young cousins that I do not know. I have close friends that I lost contact with over time. Now that I am closer to home, I try to spend every minute either enriching or rebuilding relationships with my loved ones.
KC: What are some local businesses you’ve come to love in the Coastal Bend?
NCY: I’m not a big fan of large franchises – I like mom-and-pop shops and family-owned businesses. It’s not uncommon for you to find me in Santa Rosa Restaurant on Saturday or Sunday. While there, I like to drop my truck off at Car Wash America next door. In addition, I’m a fan of Coral Bean Café and Peerless Cleaners. I’m pretty much a creature of habit and maintain the same daily routine. Because of that, I am able to get to know the staff at our small businesses and build relationships that may still exist 15 or 20 years from now.