Greener pastures

Greener pastures

After years of ups and downs as the Vidor city manager, Ricky Jorgensen is calling it quits. Although Jorgensen has yet to officially turn in a letter of resignation, he has confirmed to The Examiner his last day as the city manager of Vidor will be March 9. Jorgensen said he plans to turn in his resignation at the March 8 Vidor City Council meeting, but has given the council a one-month verbal notice to find someone to fill his post.

Over the past seven years, Jorgensen has seen the small city expand in many ways, he said. Among some of the developments to come to Vidor in that time is the Walk of Fame, Veteran’s Memorial Park, annexations that made the city larger in both land and tax base, advances in planning and zoning for the normally free-range territory, construction of an $11 million City Hall, and the passage of two voter-backed propositions that now allow alcohol sales in the once semi-dry city. Supporters are hard at work to construct a pass-through toll loop in the city, too, and developers have tentatively agreed to bring in a new apartment complex and single-family homes in the near future. Property taxes are holding steady and, with the added revenue from newly instated alcohol sales, the city budget is looking better than it has in a long time.

Jorgensen said he is happy to leave while on top.

“Any city manager wants to go to a city and improve the quality of life there,” Jorgensen said. “And that’s what I try to do.”

Jorgensen said it wasn’t always easy being in his seat.

“There were a lot of decisions made that I had nothing to do with, that I didn’t necessarily agree with,” he said. “I did what I was told to do. I work at the pleasure of the council and the mayor, and that isn’t always easy.”

In 2011, Jorgensen was repeatedly reviewed by the Vidor City Council for alleged insubordination, among other charges, with no findings of fault ever placed on the city manager. Jorgensen’s employment was under constant scrutiny in executive sessions held by Vidor’s elected leaders month after month, but in the end, the governmental body decided to keep its longtime city administrator.

But Jorgensen was looking for a post less contentious. While on the Texas Municipal League (TML) Web site, he said, Jorgensen happened upon a listing for an opening as city manager of Giddings, Texas. Just 55 miles east of Austin on Highway 290 and home to a Buc-ee’s convenience store, the quaint city of less than 6,000 was just what Jorgensen was looking for.

“It’s really pretty there,” he said, adding that he hasn’t found a place to live there yet but is looking forward to the move. “It’s very nice, and I’d say I’m pretty excited about it.”Jorgensen said he feels a good connection to the Giddings City Council, and his new salary is similar to the one he has now in Vidor. Jorgensen’s salary in Vidor, including 401k and insurance, was more than $120,000 annually.

And while Jorgensen said he might not miss Vidor politics all that much, he will miss the residents and staff of the city he has come to know and love.

“I’ll miss the people around here; they really are good people, good friends,” Jorgensen said. “A lot of the staff here has been here even longer than me, so that’s a long time to be with someone.”

Still, he insists, the Giddings post “was just too good an opportunity to pass up.”

While in his office Tuesday, Feb. 21, Jorgensen was putting his career in Vidor to rest by posting advertising for his current job on the TML and TMA (Texas Managers Association) Web sites.

“When you lose someone like that, it takes a while to get back to normal,” Vidor City Secretary Rhonda Haskins said on word her boss was resigning. “We’ll have a new boss, but we have no idea who.”

Haskins said changing city managers is always scary, and she has seen a few come and go.

“It’s getting close to (Jorgensen’s) last day,” she said hesitantly, “and we still don’t know who will take his place. I don’t think it’ll be easy to do, to replace him. We’ll see.”

Jennifer Johnson can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 231, or by e-mail at jennifer [at] theexaminer [dot] com.