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City Manager gets above-average marks in annual review

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Robby Hefton

City Manager Robby Hefton received overall high marks for his performance over the past fiscal year. 

The recently performed the annual evaluation of the city manager based on his performance of duties from September 2019 until the beginning of September 2020.  While, Hefton received about a 4.3 average score on the evaluation, some members of the City Council did voice criticism over his performance.

"Overall, I feel strongly Robby is an effective leader for the city and staff," one council wrote anonymously. "He has the admiration of his team and council. I appreciate his desire to always do what he thinks is right. He is a man of faith, and I appreciate him making decisions based on those convictions."

The results of the evaluation were obtained by the Herald Democrat through an open records request to the city that was submitted in early November. The evaluation consisted of 52 criteria where Hefton was rated on a scale of one through five, with s one representing "unacceptable"  performance and a five representing "excellent" performance.

The evaluation was performed by the six members of the council and Mayor David Plyler. The council members are not attached to each score, and are instead represented by the letters 'A' through 'G'.

The evaluation graded Hefton on a series of categories based on his job duties as the city manager in both leadership and administrative skill. Examples of the criteria include evaluating his judgment to his responsiveness to the council and residents within the city.

While Hefton overall did well on his latest evaluation,  he did receive criticism on several items, particularly from two unnamed members of the council.

Council Member D rated Hefton below an average score of three 15 times throughout  the evaluation. This includes two categories — related to performing the will of the full council rather than one member or group, and employee compensation and benefits — where Hefton was given the minimum score of one. The same council member did not rate Hefton at the maximum score of five for any category in the review.

By comparison, Council Member F gave Hefton a two out of five rating on nine of the 52 categories.

One area where Hefton appeared to struggle based on the council review related to his interactions with the council itself and carrying out the will of the council. Of these five related topics, Hefton scored some his lowest scores, including a 3.4 average on his ability to "disseminate complete and accurate information equallyto all members in a timely manner."

Conversely, Hefton score well on topics related to his knowledge skills and decision making.

Following the numeric grading, members of the council were given the opportunity to leave unnamed comments regarding Hefton's performance. As with the previous category, Hefton receive a mixture of praise and constructive criticism.

"I would like to see Robby more focused on operations of the city and less focused on developer incentives," one council member wrote. "I would like to see more emphasis on financial implications and less concern on whether or not Sherman is growing. Growth is a product of time and circumstance. Sherman is positioned to grow, and we should not need to pay for that growth."

"Stay focused on keeping taxes low, fees to a minimum and ensure the city operations are running efficiently," another council member wrote. "Use council direction to create your agenda and be willing to set aside personal bias."