San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley
San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

City Manager Sheryl Sculley announced her retirement on Thursday, less than one month after voters approved an amendment to the city charter that would cap future city managers’ pay and tenure. Though the change would not affect Sculley, many saw the passage of Proposition B as critique of her salary and power. Sculley earned a base salary of $475,000 in 2018 and is eligible for a $100,000 bonus based on her performance review. Sculley has served as San Antonio’s city manager since 2005.

The Rivard Report reached out to leaders in the local community for reactions.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg

“Sheryl Sculley has been a truly outstanding city manager. She has delivered 13 years of exemplary fiscal stewardship … Her outstanding service has made San Antonio government more efficient, more cost-effective and a national model. Our well-run city government has played a major role in attracting economic development, improving the city’s infrastructure and providing a better quality of life for our residents.

Being city manager is a tough job. After 13 years on the frontlines making difficult and controversial decisions, Sheryl has more than paid her dues as the longest-serving city manager in San Antonio’s history … Sheryl instilled a new level of professionalism, and developed an extraordinarily strong team of talented, dedicated executive leaders. Several of them are clearly qualified to assume the role of city manager.

Former Mayor Phil Hardberger

“I think Sheryl’s legacy is the almost complete renewal of professionalism at City Hall. The way that she ran things, the energy, the intelligence, the honesty of which City Hall was run after she got here was different than it had been prior. When I became mayor, there were three city councilmen that had been convicted of crimes. It was not a pretty picture. When Sheryl came here, I wanted her to be an agent of change. I wanted to make this a tight, well-run city that people had faith in, had confidence in. She did every bit of that and more. She made us the city that we were today. Not that we weren’t a good city before, but she made us a forerunner in cities.”

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, via spokesman TJ Mayes

“Sheryl Sculley has done a terrific job for our community over the past 13 years. Judge Wolff wishes her the best.”

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1)

“I’m proud to have worked alongside Sheryl Sculley. The city has benefited under her stewardship and is now more financially stable than ever. I have full confidence the staff Sheryl assembled will continue her legacy of professionalism.”

Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4)

“Like any great athlete, you know that someday they’ll throw their last pitch or make their last pass. I know that this city is grateful for all the victories she’s been a part of. But we should look at her legacy not only in the building of fire stations, streets, parks, and pre-K centers, but in the bullpen of A-plus players she has trained to run the city after her retirement.”

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5)

“Over the years Sheryl Sculley has done incredible work for our city. She balanced her own approach to fiscal responsibility with the management of the largest bond programs San Antonio has ever seen. And she was able to do that by leading a strong, professional team. She quickly grasped and implemented the City’s move to the equity budget that I researched and lobbied two years ago. District 5 has benefited in a big way because of her willingness to advance toward a more meaningful distribution of our city’s resources.

I respect her decision to retire. This news is unfortunate, but once again it shows her strength and leadership in knowing it was her time – she leaves on her terms. At the same time I am dismayed at the leadership void that brought us to this point. San Antonio is on an accelerated growth path that calls for decisive action, where uncertainty is met with opportunistic opposition. This outcome is not a surprise. Even so, we have great people in San Antonio who can fill the city manager position. And while looming term and salary limits would concern anyone who would take the job, I have great faith in our existing staff to take on that role.”

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6)

“I think the city manager made the right decision. It was time for change, and the citizens demanded it on Nov. 6. We should be thankful for the years of service Sheryl provided, but it’s time to look forward to the future. And that future is about changing the way City Hall operates and might [lead] to a stronger mayor and council government. I’ve always said, when we started paying council members full-time pay and extend their term limits, we needed to earn the pay. That time has come, and I look forward to the future that lies ahead.”

Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7)

“In [13 years, Ms. Sculley] has transformed how our City operates, making it more efficient, more sustainable, and fiscally stronger than ever before. She has had tremendous accomplishments in her tenure. Chief among them is the strong, capable team of consummate professionals she has assembled among the ranks of City staff. There’s no doubt that our City will continue to be strong because of this legacy. Having worked with Ms. Sculley for the last year and a half, I am tremendously grateful for her service and the many benefits it has brought to San Antonio.”

Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras

“Sheryl has been a great leader, mentor, supporter, and friend to me. I am blessed to have worked so closely with her, and I admire how deeply she cares for our city and our employees … The mayor and Council will determine a process for selection the next city manager. We will see what they decide.”

Assistant City Manager Lori Houston

“Sheryl’s leadership will have a lasting and profound impact on San Antonio. From the San Antonio River’s Museum Reach to Pre-K 4 SA to countless transformational bond projects, her work has resulted in an enhanced quality of life for all San Antonians. I sincerely respect the fact that she mentored several women including myself during her tenure at City Hall and had the unique ability to find and tap exceptional talent. I will miss her and and am honored to have served alongside her.”

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood

“I had the opportunity to speak privately with Sheryl before this announcement was made public. Our conversation was bittersweet. Sheryl Sculley will leave behind a legacy of strong and effective leadership that has resulted in positive benefits for every citizen.
Sheryl has been a strong advocate for the SAFD, for public safety, and for me personally. It is my belief that the true validation of leadership is to leave a place better than you found it. Sheryl Sculley has accomplished this and much more during her time as the city manager of San Antonio.”

Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation

“City Manager Sculley raised the bar for municipal leadership in San Antonio and propelled this community to become one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. and the only big city with a AAA bond rating. We’re competing today at a new level because of her tireless dedication to our community and service to our citizens. City Manager Sculley’s immense positive impact will be felt for many years to come, and it is up to every citizen of San Antonio to continue building upon our collective positive momentum for the betterment of our city.”

Colleen Bridger, Metro Health director

“I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of amazing leaders, and Sheryl is the absolute best. Her vision, intelligence, compassion, and tenacity have been responsible for much of the success San Antonio has seen over the last decade. I feel so fortunate to have worked with her.”

Heriberto “Berto” Guerra Jr., board chair of the San Antonio Water System

“Nobody worked harder than her, and she can walk out with her head held extremely high. We knew eventually she would retire or leave, and that always weighed heavy in our minds, but our city is a vibrant, fast-growing community. It still has, and will, and will always have the amenities that make it great – low cost of living, the historical and cultural venues, the Spurs, Toyota, USAA.”

Paula Gold-Williams, president and CEO of CPS Energy

“We have thoroughly appreciated our 13-year collaborative partnership with the City of San Antonio’s top executive, Sheryl Sculley. Sheryl’s strong support of our company and strategies during her tenure have aligned both the City of San Antonio and CPS Energy to consistently be leaders among our respective industry peers. Her leadership, passion, and vision have positioned San Antonio as one of the premier cities in the [U.S.] We will work constructively with her during her transition period, and we wish her the best in the future.”

Joe Krier, former City councilman

“Being a good city manager requires someone who knows how to recruit and inspire and keep a good executive team. … She’s recruited the police chief, the fire chief, and her senior staff, and they are all outstanding. She’s been really good at recruiting first-rate talent and motivating that talent to do a great job and stay here.”

Richard Perez, president and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce

“Finding a replacement for her is going to be difficult to say the least. With the recent election where we’ve handcuffed ourselves, so the maximum salary we can offer is a limiting factor, although I will tell you we still will be successful but we will probably getting someone not as seasoned as Sheryl and with the deep well of experience she brought with her. So that person will have to learn here. And the other good thing is that Sheryl has amassed a team of professionals she’s hired over the last 13 years that will ensure the city will still be run in a very effective way and continue to provide the citizens with excellent services.

I think [the business community is] not disappointed, we’re saddened. She has been champion for all things San Antonio and many of them have been things for the business community. I’ll give you an example. When I was on the city council … one of the first things we asked her to do was fix the development services department. [At that time] getting a permit to build a new structure took months, and was disjointed, and difficult, and it was broken. She amassed a group of citizens and business people to look at the process and suggest ways to enhance it, and that process got fixed. It’s not perfect, but she turned it into something that was a model for development services in the nation. That’s just one example of how she enhanced the business climate in San Antonio.”

Red McCombs, businessman

“I’m sorry there is [now a vacancy for the city manager position] because we’re losing a great one. We always hate to lose a great employee that has as much knowledge and interest and care and concern as Sheryl did and does, so I’m hoping in the selection process we’ll try to find a twin somewhere. I think she’s contributed the most to the city in always asking the City to do the best thing – not something to satisfy an individual group … She applied that from the day she got here and will be doing that until the day she leaves … She’s had the courage to do the right thing and what we needed in San Antonio. I would say we have a tremendous loss.”

Gordon Hartman, local philanthropist and developer

“I look forward to seeing how the Council plans to manage finding a replacement. As you know that position is incredibly important … the importance of the job goes from how efficiently City services operate to how the City performs financially in the future. I do believe the City is hamstrung based on the salary limits imposed by Proposition B. That said, I do believe there’s a lot of great talent in San Antonio and nationally for the position. But the question now is if people who meet the qualifications and talent for the job will want to take on a city of this size and stature.”

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.