Alpine city manager responds to criticism by Alpine resident

Alpine City Manager Erik Zimmer has sent the following letter to Alpine resident Manfred Fritsche, and made it available to local media:

Dear Manfred:

After listening to a year and a half of your comments, and most recently your continued beratement of me personally, I’ve decided to offer you some thoughts.  It seems appropriate to utilize the ‘Dear Abby’ approach in the media as you have graced this community with letters through that medium for several years.

The City of Alpine had some distinct challenges when I took over in November of 2013.  Most visibly, we were mired in investigations with multiple law enforcement agencies and were struggling financially.  I can remember the first several weeks of my tenure having over $275K in bills without enough dollars in the checking accounts to cover.  Making sense of our condition, and mapping out a plan to progress were critical at that juncture.

Within the first six months, we had managed to make payments on our bi-annual debt obligations, started operating in the black, came back in the good graces of the Texas Water Development Board and started improving employee morale.  I was also able to put in place a fantastic Finance Director.

Since that juncture, we have continued to pay down our debt, drive further budget accountability to our employee base, and resurrect a plan to rehabilitate our core assets.  All of this while continuing to operate within our means and not raise taxes for our citizens.  I have an open door policy with citizens, elected officials, employees and friends.  We may not always agree on points of view, but the dialogue is always engaging and important.

You started berating me early in 2014 and have come on strong over the last several months.  You ask that I be fired, yet I’m trying to understand any reason or cause other than you don’t like me (or people in general).

You have called me a ‘dictator’ and a ‘micro-manager’.  I would challenge you to first go have the discussion with: Hector Ramirez, Leroy Dutchover, Eddie Molinar, Johnny Marquez, Darrell Losoya, Megan Antrim, Cora Muniz or Riley Smith – just to name a few.  These employees give their all to our community and would be a good reflection for comment on my leadership style.  It IS my responsibility to inspire our team on a day-to-day basis and hold the team accountable.  We do that in a fair way here at the City.  We are not perfect, but we work hard.

My sense is you want to go through a character assassination with me and question my reasoning/rationale for wanting this job.  I did not move to Alpine to become the City Manager.  Dee Dee and I relocated here in an effort to spend more time with our family and raise our children in a smaller town where we could be hands on in the community.  Dee Dee has done a wonderful job at volunteering with youth, substituting in the schools and focusing on our children.  My kids have engaged themselves heavily in our schools, both academically and athletically.  They enjoy what Alpine has to offer and have benefited from having an engaged group of teachers and engaged parents.  If you want to have a deeper insight to me personally, spend an afternoon with my dad in his garden chit-chatting.  He’s an amazing man that has given me more than I could ever hope for from a parent.

The City Manager job in Alpine is my first role in a government position…and will probably be my last.  I do the job here because of my love for Alpine — it’s really that simple.  I have a mantra in life — ‘life is about the positive impacts you make on others’.  I feel that I can accomplish that here in Alpine and I enjoy our community.  My family owns multiple businesses in town, teach, volunteer and embrace the learning and development of our youth and of those in need.  Participating with them in that journey is empowering and I embrace the challenge.

I do wonder what you have done for our community in your years here in Alpine, Manfred.  I understand from talking to several leaders that you have bounced around complaining about the Government units, leadership, elected officials etc…  We have ample opportunities to open new businesses, volunteer with needed causes, and generally do concrete activities to make a sustainable difference in the area.  What is it that you have done?

My sons asked me the other day why people complain so much.  Dee Dee interjected and shared with them that it is easier to complain than make a difference.  The road less traveled is one of proactive work and building something positive around oneself.   Those that can step in with a solution and implement it are valuable to communities, organizations and businesses.

Our City has a myriad of challenges: from streets, to parks, to water distribution…you name it.   We don’t have endless dollars to fix everything immediately.  What we do have is leadership in place that working through a plan and has the ability to discern what we can do with our current funding levels.  We do have to say ‘no’ at times, and that is appropriate.

The ball is in your court.  You can choose to write some creative chastisement of me and send it to the paper, or you can get involved with volunteering, starting a business or creating goodwill in our community.

Erik Zimmer

Husband, Father, Son, City Manager

 

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