The Austin City Council has its work cut out for them for 2017. If tackling affordability and transportation weren't enough of a challenge, they'll now have to approve hiring two key leadership positions.
"Losing Art Acevedo as our Police Chief is a huge deal," said Mayor Steve Adler during a news conference Thursday afternoon. "Replacing him is going to be a daunting task."
And that task is on top of the most critical personnel hire this council will have to make, selecting a new city manager.
Three months ago Marc Ott announced he was ending his eight-year tenure to lead the International City/County Management Association.
"I think what you have here is a circumstance where both these individuals were given outstanding opportunities," said Peck Young, Executive Director of Austin Community College's Center for Public Policy and Political Studies. "This isn't unique, but it doesn't happen a lot."
Young has been involved in Austin politics since 1969, running or aiding all of the winning mayoral campaigns from 1975 to the early 1990s. He said the city manager and chief will be the council's most critical hires.
"Certainly the manager's going to affect issues like affordability and taxation and so forth," said Young. "And then there probably along with the fire chief, one of the more fundamental duties that the city has is protecting its citizens."
Peck is confident the council can handle it, partly because of who will be guiding them: Interim City Manager Elaine Hart, who's been with the city more than 20 years and was most recently the Chief Financial Officer.
Her recommendation to council is to first hire a city manager.
"This is a very key, very public position for the city and my commitment to the council when named as the interim is that those kinds of positions I would hold off because the permanent City Manager would want to have input into that process," said Hart.
A process, and hires, with the power to send Austin in a new direction.
"This gives Austin a real unique opportunity to really enter a new era in our history... that promise and potential are exciting," said Adler.
Hart said Acevedo's departure means about 25-percent of the city's leadership positions are now open.
The city has to hire directors for the Public Works Department, Housing Department, Code Department, Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Library in addition to a new City Manager and Police Chief.
While the council will vote to approve Acevedo's permanent replacement, they will not vote for an interim chief. The city manager, or interim city manager, in this case, handles the hiring for the city.
Hart said she could name an interim police chief as early as Friday and as late as next week.