Another top Austin city official is leaving her post, creating a vacancy that an interim appointee will fill.
Assistant City Manager Sue Edwards, whose work with the city began in the early 1970s, decided over Christmas break that she will retire in March, she said. Interim City Manager Elaine Hart announced the departure in a memo to the City Council last week.
Edwards initially considered retiring almost nine years ago when former City Manager Toby Futrell departed, but ended up staying at the request of then-incoming City Manager Marc Ott, she said. He left the city in October.
After sticking around years longer than intended, Edwards decided to leave around the same time Ott did.
“I always said, when Marc left, that was the last city manager I’d want to work for,” Edwards said.
The New Mexico native moved to Austin as part of a community action agency and then became a city employee when the city took over the agency, she said. She worked for Austin for 11 years, serving as director of several departments and rising to assistant city manager in 1984.
In 1985, Edwards left the city to pursue private consulting on small business development and property taxes. But in 1994, then-City Manager Jesus Garza asked if she would take over Emergency Medical Services to help it work through some issues, she said.
“I said, ‘Yes, but I’ll only come back for two years,’” she said. “Two years turned into 23.”
Edwards created the city’s first economic development department in 2000. Her eight years as that department’s director included sponsoring construction of City Hall and promoting redevelopment of a mixed-use Second Street district. Economic development was particularly challenging and rewarding, Edwards said, because each negotiation is “like building a puzzle” of different stakeholders’ priorities.
“I saw it as an opportunity to make some changes in the city, but still keep the character of Austin,” she said. “All the artists, musicians, the culture we have, it’s still here and it’s blossomed, and that’s why people come here.”
In 2008, Edwards became assistant city manager overseeing development and environmental services. That included overseeing redevelopment of the old airport into the Mueller planned development, creating a music and entertainment initiative and beginning the CodeNEXT rewrite of city development ordinances.
Austin has several high-level positions open, including police chief and city manager. Hart will appoint an interim person to fill Edwards’ job and a permanent hire will wait until a city manager is hired. Austin hasn’t yet decided on a search firm to look for a new city manager.