DALLAS –– Mary Suhm, Dallas' city manager for the past eight years, will step down after the council passes a budget for the next fiscal year, she revealed in a memo on Thursday.
"I am giving notice that following preparation of the upcoming budget, I will be leaving my position as city manager," she writes in a memo to Mayor Mike Rawlings and the City Council.
The city's budget is approved in September of each year. Suhm will likely stay on after in an advisory role, guiding her successor through the job duties. A.C. Gonzalez, first assistant city manager, will serve in the interim while the City Council searches for a replacement, said Councilman Dwaine Caraway.
In the memo, Suhm highlights a number of accomplishments reached in her time as city manager. Public safety has improved under Police Chiefs David Kunkle and David Brown –– Dallas is no longer the least safe large city in America, as it was in 2005 when Suhm was elevated to city manager.
Downtown has seen an influx of growth under Suhm, complete with thousands of residences, new parks –– such as the landmark Klyde Warren Deck Park, which opened last year over Woodall Rodgers –– the remodeled Central Library and "re-emerging retail base," she writes in her memo.
Suhm also pushed for the Omni Convention Center Hotel, which opened in Nov. 2011 and exceeded its revenue estimates by 24 percent in its first year of operations. She also helped the city secure plans for a golf course and a horse park in southern Dallas, a project that falls in line with Mayor Rawlings' Grow South initiative, meant to spark economic growth in the city's southern areas.
Still, Suhm has her critics. Councilman Scott Griggs, who handily won the District 1 spot over Suhm supporter Delia Jasso, was one of three council members who raised concerns about a deal she made with a gas company. Trinity East Energy was hoping to get the OK to drill on parkland inside the city limits.
In Feb., the 2008 memo came to light wherein Suhm made a non-binding side deal with the Fort Worth-based drilling company. While the lease still required approval from the City Council, her critics –– which included Griggs, exiting Councilwoman Angela Hunt and Councilwoman Sandy Greyson –– expressed concern that she exceeded her power in adding her name to the non-binding agreement.
Suhm, meanwhile, argued that the council gave her authority to sign the lease. The majority of the council and Mayor Rawlings stood behind Suhm in that instance.
In her memo, she thanked her top staff and the council, saying she knew "they will assure this transition is smooth with their dedication and energy."
"My city service has been a privilege and a joy," she writes. "The people I work with are exceptional in their caring and hard work for this community and frequently are under-appreciated. I am proud to have worked side by side with them for three decades."