SAN BENITO — It looks like City Manager Manuel De La Rosa isn’t going anywhere soon.
He did not land the city manager’s job in Del Rio, where he was one of two finalists for the position paying at least $10,000 more than his current salary.
On Wednesday, Del Rio city councilors gave the job to Mathew Wojnowski, the assistant city manager of Altus, Okla., who currently serves as that city’s interim city manager.
“I am happy for Matt,” De La Rosa stated yesterday.
Here, De La Rosa has noted city commissioners have not extended his contract, which runs through January 2020.
“I will continue to focus my attention on the city of San Benito,” De La Rosa stated.
For months, De La Rosa has apparently searched for job opportunities amid city commissioners’ apparent waning support.
While Mayor Ben Gomez and Commissioners Rene Villafranco and Carol Lynn Sanchez continue to support him, Commissioners Tony Gonzales and Rick Guerra called a meeting to discuss firing him last September.
After closed-door discussions at that time, Gomez announced commissioners chose to take no action.
Then last month, Gomez, Villafranco and Sanchez gave De La Rosa “above-average” marks during his job evaluation.
Under his contract, the vote triggered a $5,000 pay increase boosting his salary to $120,000.
“He’s working good for the city,” Gomez said yesterday. “I think he’s got us in a good situation.”
Yesterday, Gomez, Gonzales and Guerra said they would consider renegotiating De La Rosa’s current contract if he works to move the city forward during the course of the year.
“I told him, ‘Let’s see what you do and we’ll talk about renegotiating the contract,’” Gomez said. “Actions speak louder than words.”
Guerra said he would consider renegotiating De La Rosa’s contract if his work merits an extension.
“I know we’re moving forward but not fast enough. We need a lot more for the citizens of San Benito,” Guerra said. “Hopefully, he’ll start working with us more.”
Villafranco said De La Rosa has helped negotiate several economic development projects, including a resaca-side commercial development.
“I’m hoping the commissioners come to an agreement to extend his contract,” Villafranco said.
De La Rosa helped guide the city to a multimillion-dollar settlement in the lawsuit filed against companies involved in the construction of the city’s $17 million water plant and worked to open the new $1.7 million San Benito Cultural Heritage Center, Villafranco said.
“He’s done a good job in San Benito,” Villafranco said. “He’s been instrumental in his leadership.”
What happens next
If commissioners work to renegotiate De La Rosas’s contract, Gomez said he would want some changes.
Under his current contract, “above-average” evaluations automatically trigger $5,000 pay increases.
Gomez said he would remove that clause from the contract.
Meanwhile, Guerra said he does not want De La Rosa to threaten to leave his job to leverage a boost to his salary.
“Everybody knows he’s applied to other places, too. If he still wants to apply to other places, I don’t hold it against him,” Guerra said. “But do not use that to get higher pay from us. That’s not going to happen. If he feels he can get more money somewhere else, great. But San Benito doesn’t have the money to pay what he wants or thinks he deserves.”
Critical of De La Rosa
During De La Rosa’s three-year tenure, Gonzales has openly criticized the city manager’s job performance.
“I haven’t seen anything new in San Benito since he’s been here,” Gonzales said.
After his push to fire the city manager failed, Gonzales said he was counting on De La Rosa’s landing the Del Rio job.
“I was hoping he would get it,” Gonzales said. “But this is the only place he’s got a job.”
Last week, Gonzales said he would not consider extending De La Rosa’s contract.
“He doesn’t respect me but he’s got three on his side,” Gonzales said, referring to Gomez, Villafranco and Sanchez.
Now, Gonzales is having second thoughts about discussing De La Rosa’s contract.
“We’ll wait till it’s time,” Gonzales said, referring to contract talks. “It’s too early. He has to prove himself to me. I’m going to work with him through the end of the year. I will try.”