Evaluation boosts manager’s salary to $210K

HARLINGEN — City Manager Dan Serna has become the highest-paid administrator in the city’s history.

Last week, commissioners gave Serna a $15,000 pay increase after meeting in closed session to give him his annual evaluation.

Commissioners also evaluated Auditor Danny Coyle and attorneys Ricardo Navarro and Alan Ozuna with the firm Denton, Navarro, Rocha, Bernal, Hyde & Zech, who work as city attorneys.

On Serna’s second evaluation, commissioners gave him high marks, Mayor Chris Boswell said yesterday.

“I think our city manager did an excellent job over the last year,” Boswell said. “I think he has a strong work ethic, good leadership among staff and generally (meets) the objectives of the commission.”

This year, Serna worked to help launch the $16.7 million drive to build the convention center.

With construction underway, the project is expected to be completed next September.

Meanwhile, Serna helped the development firm MRE Capital on its successful effort to land $3.3 million in federal tax credits in the $4.5 million project to renovate the 90-year-old Baxter Building into a largely low-income apartment development.

The project aims to restore the nine-story building, blamed for holding back the city’s downtown revitalization, to its original condition.

“There’s certainly been a lot of investing of his time in those projects,” Boswell said.

Boswell said Serna’s pay increase was more than a bonus.

But even at his new salary of $210,000, Serna is still drawing a smaller salary than city managers in McAllen, Brownsville, Mission and Pharr, Boswell said.

“The pay increase is not simply a merit increase,” Boswell said. “It’s trying to get him in line with what the city managers of comparably-sized cities in the Valley are making.”

Last year, Serna’s first evaluation as city manager also led to a $15,000 pay increase.

In November 2015, commissioners appointed Serna city manager, setting his salary at $180,000.

Serna, who had previously served as an assistant city manager for external affairs, had climbed the ranks after about 28 years with the city.

Serna was on business in Washington, D.C., and unavailable for comment.

Boswell said he could not disclose details of the Nov. 1 evaluations because they were held in executive session.

However, Coyle, he said, “is doing an excellent job.”

Hired in October 2015 at a salary of $65,000, last year’s evaluation gave Coyle a $10,000 pay increase, boosting his salary to $75,000.

Coyle had previously served as finance director with the city of San Benito.

Boswell also lauded the work of Navarro, Ozuna and their firm.

“I would give our city attorneys high marks,” he said. “They’ve done a great job.”

Last November, commissioners contracted with Navarro and his firm to take over the duties of city attorney.

Navarro and Ozuna, who serves as city attorney during most city commission meetings, charge the city a rate of $195 an hour.

The firm also performs the services of Municipal Court prosecutor while handling collective bargaining, civil service, labor matters and real estate issues.