Spencer Cronk, the man the City Council has picked to be Austin’s next city manager, is hoping to take the reins at City Hall on Feb. 12.
Though that is a month away, Cronk said he was urged by many in Minnesota to take his time getting here. After all, he only has to prepare Minneapolis for the nation’s grandest annual sports spectacle in the following weeks.
Cronk’s final date of employment as city coordinator for Minneapolis is Feb. 11, as first reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, giving Cronk one last week working for the Midwest metropolis after the city hosts Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4.
“There were certainly not only pressures, but encouragement from both city staff, the mayor and even the governor’s office to make sure I stayed around,” Cronk said.
Cronk has been at the forefront of preparing for the Super Bowl, preparation he said continued Tuesday with an all-day training put on by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Contract negotiations remain underway for Cronk, 38, who was paid $173,355 a year in Minneapolis. He will likely see a pay raise in Austin that could easily double his current salary. Interim City Manager Elaine Hart makes $306,233, plus deferred compensation and an executive allowance. Before her, former City Manager Marc Ott made $361,000 when he left the job in 2016.
Cronk will also see his staff size jump from 4,200 city employees in Minneapolis to more than 17,000 in Austin.
Cronk said he and his husband are traveling to Austin this weekend to begin looking for places to live. Getting to know the city will take some time, but when it comes to city business, patience won’t be a virtue.
City Hall will still be facing several high-profile issues when Cronk settles into his new office.
Austin police will likely still be operating without a permanent contract when Cronk arrives. The City Council will get its hands on the next draft of CodeNext soon after, in what is shaping up to be an intense debate fraught with political consequences amplified by an election year.
Preparing next year’s budget will be ahead, along with hiring nearly 20 department heads and top executive positions, including Austin’s police chief, currently covered by interim or acting managers.
The city’s staff will also have to prepare a series of bonds for the November election that could add up to upwards of $825 million in spending.
Cronk would not comment on the process that led to his selection, which many have criticized for its lack of transparency that ultimately led the headhunting consultant to take bizarre measures to shield the identities of candidates for the job.
But he said City Hall staff have been helping him gently transition even as operations in Minneapolis continue to move forward “at full steam.” Those assisting include Hart, who Cronk said has been providing him information while not inundating him. “I am preparing,” he said.
“First and foremost, I’ll be doing a lot of listening,” Cronk said. “I am looking forward to meeting a lot of city staff, business owners and getting to know the community.”