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  1. #1

    Default City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    http://www.okctalk.com/content.php?r...C-City-Manager

    Couch to end 18-year run as OKC City Manager

    OKCTalk has learned that James D. Couch, City Manager for Oklahoma City, plans to issue a press release later today announcing his retirement.



    Couch was appointed November 9, 2000, making him the longest-serving OKC City Manager by wide margin.

    Of the previous 35 predecessors, the average tenure is 2.5 years and the longest had been under 7.

    In addition to managing the city's 4,600 employees and $1.1 billion budget, Couch also serves on several city-related boards and agencies including the Airport Trust, Water Utilities Turst, Zoo Trust, and Economic Development Trust.

    The city manager serves at the discretion of the city council, yet Couch has been in the position for such an extended period that not current council member was involved in his appointment.

    Couch has also hand-picked most the highest level positions at City Hall.

    Before his appointment, Couch served as Assistant City Manager for 2.5 years and Water/Wastewater Utilities Director for 11 years, bringing his tenure with the city to close to 30 years.

    No specific reasons were given for the decision and a press release is expected later today.

  2. #2

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    This is a huge, huge deal.

    The City Manager is by far and away the most powerful position in OKC -- much more so than the mayor.

    Not only will there be a new manager, almost certainly the new appointee will make changes in some/many of the top positions at City Hall.

  3. #3

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    Hoping this will solve some of the transparency issues and behind-the-scene deal making.

  4. #4

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    I'm appreciative of the stability provided by Couch but this is great news. While I was hoping retirement was in the cards soonish, I was hoping it would be after the ward 6 and 7 elections so that the appointee would be one of the new look council.

  5. #5

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    Oh wow, talk about a potential sea change in city government. Any chance they'll just appoint one of his close deputies, or will this be an external search for a replacement?

  6. #6

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    Quote Originally Posted by David View Post
    Oh wow, talk about a potential sea change in city government. Any chance they'll just appoint one of his close deputies, or will this be an external search for a replacement?
    I believe a search committee will be established and then city council would have the ultimate approval.

  7. Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    In before he gets dragged here, but I’d just like to say that those with a long view understand that he earned his reputation and very long tenure by being a VERY qualified and successful administrator. At a time when the first MAPS program was in serious jeopardy he nearly single-handedly saved the program, and built his reputation on being shrewd.

    He was intimately involved in MANY (if not most) of OKC’s successes over the past couple of decades, and presided over a government that was largely scandal-free, had excellent bond ratings, good and productive relationships with various municipal employees’ unions, and navigated some very difficult times economically and otherwise.

    I won’t disagree that it’s possible that a changing of the guard here could lead to some fresh approaches to city planning, land use and some other things that I myself along with others are itching to see, but it needs to be pointed out that running a city government is a much bigger and more complex job than a single-issue one. And Jim Couch has been very good and very efficient at running OKC from an overall standpoint. And certainly almost ALL of the inner city renaissance we’ve seen since the nineties has occurred on his watch and with his involvement.

    Assuming this news is true, there is opportunity here, but there is also risk. Will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

    And before someone comes in with a “carrying water” critique, I’ll just say that my own personal relationship with Jim - while not especially direct in nature, especially in recent years - was certainly not ONLY smooth sailing. In fact the last time I that I was in his office (a decade ago) felt more like being in the principal’s office. But I fully recognize that he has been VERY good at his job. I hope that’s how his tenure is recalled. I’ve tried not to respond to some of the recent posts calling for his ouster, but again, I think we lose a lot when/if he leaves office.
    NOTICE: I WORK FOR A DOWNTOWN TOURIST ATTRACTION

  8. #8

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    Definitely feel he has been the right man for the job for most of his tenure and do not want to return to the days of city managers having 2.5 year terms on average. Hoping for someone much like him but with an open mind for those needed changes.

  9. #9

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    Personally, I'd strongly prefer an outside rather than an internal promotion.

    We need to step away from engineers making most the important decisions in OKC and we also need more of a separation between corporate power brokers and city management.

    And we need fresh eyes on everything in general, which is the reason city managers frequently rotate, and not just in OKC.

  10. #10

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    Jim Couch hasn't done it alone - he's served by three assistant city managers, MT Berry (police, fire, courts, IT & general services), Dennis Clowers (MAPS, public works, airports, parks & rec and utilities, ) and Laura Johnson (finance, planning, development, transportation & parking, city clerk, and information & marketing). Who knows if any/all are interested or under consideration for the City Manager post.

  11. #11

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire


  12. #12

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    Press release:

    ******************

    Oklahoma City Manager James D. Couch to retire

    James D. Couch, the longest-serving City Manager in Oklahoma City’s history, is retiring effective Jan. 2.

    “I’m retiring as Oklahoma City’s City Manager, not from the community,” said Couch. “I plan to stay in the City I’ve grown to love. I’m ready to write a new chapter in my life. I don’t know what it is yet, but I want to pursue it.”

    Couch announced his resignation in a Monday letter to Mayor David Holt. Couch will use accumulated vacation leave for most of the time between Thanksgiving and Jan. 2.



    “Sometimes, it can feel like Jim Couch is the unsung hero of the Oklahoma City renaissance. But if that is the case, today is a day to sing songs of praise,” said Mayor Holt. “Simply stated, Jim Couch is the best City Manager in the country, and he is absolutely one of the top five most important figures in this successful chapter of Oklahoma City’s history. It is no accident that he is by far the longest-serving City Manager in Oklahoma City history, and we would have welcomed his continued service for as long as he was willing to give it. We also understand that Jim has done this for a long time, and that he wants to leave time for new experiences. I know I speak for the City Council when I say that it is with the greatest regret that we hear this news, but we wish Jim only the best, and we look forward to the next few months we still have together.”

    Couch was appointed City Manager on Nov. 9, 2000. He has since served with honor and distinction as the City’s chief administrative officer, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the City of Oklahoma City, its staff of 4,804 employees and its budget of $1.56 billion.

    “I am proud to work for Oklahoma City, and I believe public service is a noble profession,” he said during his swearing-in ceremony nearly 18 years ago.

    Securing Oklahoma City’s long-term access to dependable water sources for generations to come will perhaps be Couch’s most enduring legacy. Couch, though his position as City Manager and also as a trustee of the Water Utilities Trust, led negotiations that secured rights to water in Canton Lake and Sardis Lake for Oklahoma City.

    The complicated, lengthy negotiations regarding Sardis Lake ended with a landmark agreement in 2016 between the City, state of Oklahoma and Chickasaw and Choctaw nations. The agreement protects the needs of water users in southeast Oklahoma.

    “He ranks right up there with Stanley Draper for his impact on the water system in Oklahoma City,” said former Ward 4 Councilman and former Water Utilities Trust Chairman Pete White. “He’s a steady hand on the wheel. His ability to get along with all the players at the table during sometimes very contentious negotiations was and is remarkable.”

    Couch was also a key figure, along with former Mayor Mick Cornett, in negotiating agreements with two NBA franchises – the New Orleans Hornets during their temporary, two-year relocation to Oklahoma City from 2005-07, and the Thunder before their permanent move here in 2008.

    The NBA came to what is now known as Chesapeake Energy Arena, one of the crown jewels of the MAPS program investments overseen by Couch during his tenure. Couch was an Assistant City Manager and the MAPS Director for 2 ½ years preceding his appointment as City Manager, and has since shepherded the planning and implementation of MAPS for Kids, MAPS 3 and the current Better Streets, Safer City program.

    “There has been a lot of talk about the MAPS Mayors – but very little about the MAPS City Manager. Jim Couch would never mention it because he’s a humble person who’s happiest working behind the scenes, but he was an integral part of Oklahoma City’s renaissance,” said former Mayor Cornett. “It’s one thing to have a vision and another thing entirely to implement that vision. Jim was there, every step of the way, helping to turn a vision for a better Oklahoma City into the reality we have today. He is the best city manager in the nation. He was a valued partner in my four terms as Mayor and a great friend. Terri and I wish Jim and his wife Cathy all the best as they move on to the next chapter in their life.”

    Couch succeeded former City Manager Glenn Deck, who resigned after a little more than 2 ½ years in the position. Before serving as Assistant City Manager and MAPS Director, Couch was the Water and Wastewater Utilities Director for 11 years. He also serves or has served as a trustee or general manager of the Airport Trust, Zoological Trust, Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority, Metropolitan Area Schools Trust, Riverfront Redevelopment Authority, Economic Development Trust and McGee Creek Authority.

    In Oklahoma City’s Council-Manager form of government, the City Council hires a City Manager to oversee day-to-day operations. The Mayor, who is elected at large, and one member from each of Oklahoma City’s eight Wards form the Council.

    Couch is the current Chairman-elect of the United Way of Central Oklahoma Board of Directors, and will serve as its chairman next year.

    Before coming to Oklahoma City, Couch was the assistant city manager for the City of Edmond. He also worked for the City of Casper, Wyo., and a consulting group with offices in Nebraska, Iowa and Wyoming. He’s a Licensed Professional Engineer with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and an honorary doctorate in public administration from Oklahoma City University.

    Couch earned the Dean A. McGee Award in 2017 for his lifetime contributions to downtown.

    Couch and his wife, Cathy, are the parents of two adult sons, Jacob and Joey.

  13. #13

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    He did a great job but times have shifted and a shift in leadership is needed. The timing is interesting, Boomtown didn’t exactly paint him in a super positive light.

  14. Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    Talked to one of the guys running for Ed's seat about Couch last week and he said there's no chance that the council would fire him, not enough votes, so this is good to hear. Yeah, he did a great job, at times, but it's time to refresh things, new blood, progressive viewpoints, etc. Hopefully we get someone like that, not just Couch Jr.

  15. #15

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    Quote Originally Posted by gopokes88 View Post
    He did a great job but times have shifted and a shift in leadership is needed. The timing is interesting, Boomtown didn’t exactly paint him in a super positive light.
    I was thinking the same thing.

  16. #16

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    I asked mayor holt if we could hold off on an appointment until the new council is seated. He said that won't be until April and he wouldn't advise that long of a gap. I get that, but makes me wonder if the retirement was planned for before a new council could pick someone more progressive. Not a serious thought, but it's bouncing around in my head.

  17. Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    Quote Originally Posted by shawnw View Post
    I asked mayor holt if we could hold off on an appointment until the new council is seated. He said that won't be until April and he wouldn't advise that long of a gap. I get that, but makes me wonder if the retirement was planned for before a new council could pick someone more progressive. Not a serious thought, but it's bouncing around in my head.
    Oh, of course it was planned this way, this is the home of good ol' boy-ness...

  18. #18

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    someone must put a stop to those meddling bike riding kids!

  19. #19

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    Do many people know the story of how he saved the city a good chuck of change by negotiating with
    the Hornets, rather than "giving them everything they want" as Cornett told him to do? Found this pretty
    interesting....

  20. #20

    Default Re: City Manager Jim Couch to retire

    he did great things for the city yes, but he also did some questionable things and was not transparent about it. He held a lot of secrets where in one instance we don't have enough money due to shortage in city sales tax receipts - so there must be staffing cuts, but the following week or two we have 'found source(s)' for pet projects or behind-the-scenes negotiated deals. Granted, most of these have been in OKC's favor but still the days of conducting business/government like this are over especially for a city as large and diverse as Oklahoma City. I know many people here are against Strong Mayor form of government but the way OKC has been run with backroom dealing hasn't been that much different other than we haven't been able to hold the leader accountable, unlike with a strong mayor form of govt.

    I wish him the best and honor what he's done but it has long been time for change and I honestly agree that there's something to the timing because he should have been fired last year with the whole transparency deal-making thing which culminated recently with the BankFirst/Continental deal but yet he skated away from all of that clear and clean. ....

    I totally agree with Pete and others, in that I hope OKC does a national search and bring in someone from a much larger city whose experienced growth and success at it. We need outside prospective but also an outsiders way of running the business of government too. This will likely eventually lead to changes in city staff leadership, which is also welcome in a few key areas that have been holding OKC back for years.

    Other things I'd like to see happen along with the change of the guard is 1) higher income for council and mayor, along with the expectation that the job is full-time [$68K council, $92K mayor sounds about right], 2) at-large council position(s) and perhaps two new wards, 3) perhaps it's time to redraw the wards, and 4) I'd like to see a complete review of city code and charter; modernizing both while employing potential new sources of revenue (via permits, fines, etc) that OKC is missing out on.

    All of this would encourage new blood in city government, recognize that OKC has changed and therefore so should the representative government, and like it or not OKC should become more progressive as a city and embrace diversity AND transparency. Nothing wrong with backroom negotiations/planning etc, but give the citizens an adequate window to not only discover the city's plans for development but also to have a standard amount of time to respond before it's voted and approved.
    Oklahoma City, the RENAISSANCE CITY!

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