After spending almost ten years with the City of White Settlement, Jeff James is now beginning his first week as City Manager. Jim Ryan’s retirement was effective on June 10, and the City Council voted James as his successor. After spending seven years as City Marshal, James has served as Assistant City Manager since 2014 while continuing his City Marshal duties. During that time, James fielded several management responsibilities that he says prepared him to be City Manager. These included working as a project manager, handling large projects such as the overhaul of Cherry Lane and the creek erosion project, being the person department directors reported to, and overseeing the details of the City taking possession of Hawaiian Falls and transforming it into the city-run Splash Dayz.
James holds two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Texas at Arlington, one in Communications with a minor in business, and the other in Criminology and Criminal Justice. He’s also been certified by Texas State University as a Certified Public Manager, is a member of the Texas City Management Association, and holds a Master Peace Officer License. James recently spoke about his vision for the City of White Settlement.
“We’re at a unique point in time. This west side of Tarrant County is in a huge growth pattern right now. We can capitalize on that and make the most of it, or we can fall behind and fall victim to it and let the cities around us seize all the opportunities while we stand still,” James said. “We need to recognize what’s going on around us and create an environment here in White Settlement that benefits everyone who is already here in this town and also makes it attractive for businesses, developers, and new residents to come here.”
A major way James plans to do that is by creating a culture of future-minded thinking within the City government.
“I always want everyone looking five weeks, five months, and five years ahead. It’s not only about what’s going on today but we need to always be thinking about what’s going to be going on five years from today. How can we work to make sure we’re in a great position five years from now in this town?”
James also said he wants to focus the City on some issues that he knows are unpopular, but are extremely important. This includes items such as the aging infrastructure in the City.
“We have not replaced our infrastructure in a great while. We have water and sewer lines in this City that haven’t been replaced in forty or fifty years.”
While important, James said that the thing that makes these projects challenging is the price tag that comes along with them.
“Things cost more than they used to, it’s just a fact. These aren’t cheap fixes, but ultimately they will service our community better. Improved infrastructure is more efficient, requires less maintenance, and ultimately will save our citizens money,” he said. “At all times I’m thinking about what is the most wise and fair use of the tax dollars that we have to spend. This money needs to be put to use for the good of our City, that should always be the focus.”
Another thing that James is passionate about is operating an open government that is approachable and responsive. He’s already put into motion initiatives to increase transparency and make available more information about the City. He is also putting a focus on communications, with improvements to the City’s website already on the schedule.
“I would like to see every citizen who has a question or a concern be able to get an answer from us. I want to get us to a place where we’re answering questions before they’re even asked by getting out as much information for our citizens as we possibly can.”
Citizen involvement through serving on boards, volunteer opportunities, or just sharing their thoughts with the government are also things that James is highly in favor of.
“I love to see citizens involved in our government. This city belongs to them,” James said.
As he begins his tenure as City Manager, James said he’s excited about the strides forward White Settlement has taken but that he knows there’s still much work to be done.
“There are serious issues facing this city. I live here, too, what happens in White Settlement impacts me and my family just like it does everyone elses,” James said. “But if we play our cards right and focus on tough issues and always keep thinking not just about today but also about tomorrow, White Settlement is going to be THE place to live in the years to come. We’re in a position to seize some incredible opportunities and continue to grow and improve. That won’t come without challenges, but I think we’re ready to face them.”