In early February, the Stephenville City Council announced that Allen Barnes had been selected as the new city administrator and he began that position on Feb. 16.
The E-T sat down with Barnes in his office at City Hall on Tuesday to find out a little more about him, his early impressions of the Cowboy Capital of the World and his vision for Stephenville.
“I think the best way to see what a city can become is to watch what’s being done now,” Barnes said. “And from what I see so far, great things are being done here every day — everywhere you look."
Since the October 2016 resignation of former city administrator Pat Bridges, the job has been filled by interim city administrator Wayne McKethan.
McKethan stayed on to help Barnes make the transition and his last day was Wednesday.
Barnes has 19 years of city-management experience, having served as city manager for the Texas cities of Sachse, Liberty, Whitesboro, and most recently in Gonzales, a position he began in 2011.
He says he has an extremely positive first impression and an equally-upbeat long-term view of things to come.
“I’m just getting my feet wet in this position right now, of course, but I can tell you that I have never seen such a capable staff anywhere," he said. "The people who work for the city of Stephenville, Texas are as good as it gets, it’s that simple. I’m extremely impressed with the team of folks here. And the mayor and city council have been so welcoming and helpful.”
While he has a wealth of experience as a city manager, Barnes hasn’t always, been in this line of work. In fact, after high school he went to work as a police officer and was a deputy sheriff in Collin County for 13 years.
He laughs and says, “Yeah, I’ve still got the scars from being a police officer to prove it, but I wouldn’t take anything for that experience. I wanted to go into law enforcement early on — probably about junior high. It’s a lot tougher being in law enforcement in today’s environment. I really admire the people who do it these days, but I’m very happy I made the transition and am able to be doing what I do now. ”
In terms of formal education, Barnes has a master’s degree in public affairs and a bachelor’s degree in psychology, both from the University of Texas at Dallas.
He and his wife, Brenda, have five sons: John, James and David, all career Air Force personnel; Daniel, who’s a manager for Home Depot; and Clint, a junior high school principal.
After the selection of Barnes was announced, Mayor Kenny Weldon said, “The city council is extremely impressed with both the professional record and friendly personality of Mr. Barnes. He is a skilled and respected professional city administrator who will bring a tremendous amount of value and experience to our community.”
About his vision for the city, Barnes says, “We are the stewards of the resources of the residents of Stephenville. It’s their city; it’s funded with their money and it’s our job to look after their well being. We have to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth from their tax dollars and that they get to live in a safe and efficiently-functioning city.”
He continues, “Maybe the best way I can put it is that in an ideal world, people shouldn’t have to think about city government at all. When they turn the tap the water should flow. When they drive on the streets, they shouldn’t have to think about potholes.
“We’ll never get to that perfect situation, of course,” Barnes says, “but to the extent we can make things function as well as possible, we need to put forth every effort to do so.”
Barnes says he sees nothing but solid growth and positive potential for Stephenville, and that the spirit of community is the main thing that has impressed him most so far.
“The people I work with are not just city employees; they are committed to the well-being of everybody here beyond their jobs with the city. They volunteer and contribute to things like delivering meals with Meals on Wheels or working with kids in Scouts — you name it. This is a community that’s involved and thriving,” he said.
“Before I was selected for this position, Brenda and I came to Stephenville and had a look around. I think the best place to go if you want to get a feel for a small town is Walmart.
“So we did that and people were so nice to us; they didn’t know us from Adam, but they would smile and say, ‘How you doing?’ or ask if we needed anything.
“We knew right away that if I was chosen for this position, we were going to be coming home. And now that I’m in this job, that’s how it feels. Stephenville is home.”