Lane Jones made the rounds of city departments on Monday, his first day on the job as Interim Part-Time City Manager of Van Alstyne. During that time, he was able meet most of the department heads for the first time. Tuesday morning, he met with all of them at Van Alstyne City Hall.
It’s a part of Jones’ process of learning all he can about Van Alstyne, it’s people, it’s present and it’s future.
The Bonham resident came to Van Alstyne from his former city manager position in an Oklahoma city. When asked why he gave up a full-time job for a part-time interim job, his answer was firmly and positively stated: “Because my wife has cancer.” Jones said she is undergoing all the necessary surgeries and treatments for the disease and now he will be closer to home and able to be with her and of more help to her. Together, they have 11 adult-age children, four of whom were adopted. And, he proudly stated, one of those daughters just gave birth to their 14th grandchild.
But, back to his new job, Jones said that “Getting to know the players is most important, it’s important for me to understand who the people are within the city, to see things through their eyes and to hear from them about what might and might not work.”
At the top of that list are the Van Alstyne City Council members. Jones is eager to spend time with each of them, he said, and “learn what their thoughts and goals for today, tomorrow and 5-10 years from now, both as individuals and as a body.”
Jones also will be knocking on businesses’ doors and hoping to sit down for visit with the owners to find out how they are doing and what their opportunities are. “I want to talk to everybody,” he said. “It takes a while to pull the perspective of all these people. The more information I can get, the better.”
During the interview process, Jones said the council talked about the future of Van Alstyne and wanting to maintain a small town feel along with its rapid growth. “I asked at the time what that meant, but it was very difficult in an interview to understand what that meant to the council.” So, he said, he began looking at six or seven area communities which had already experienced rapid growth. “I took all of the information I found back to the council. The common theme is downtown revitalization, properly done — it’s critical to maintain the hometown feel.”
Factor along that line would be the Chamber of Commerce’s Music in the Park and Fall der All festival, all held making use of the downtown area. Jones was happy to hear of these two free-to-the-public events. “It’s important, culture and community events, to expand the city’s identity.”
From the information he gleans and after studying and learning about all the various ordinances on the books, Jones said he “will devise a plan.” How long that will take? “I don’t know, I need to work with Community Development Corporation and understand where we are, not to upset the apple cart, but to learn how I can help facilitate the process. There is a lot of learning about the dynamics of the city to do, and my job is to push it in a [positive] direction. The decisions we make today guide us to these points, five and 10 years down the road. If we don’t make a determination as to what we want to be when we grow up and start to work on that now, that decision will be made for us.”
Jones said he plans to work the interim city manager job just as if it were a full-time job, working at the same level of determination. “That’s the nature of whom I am. I hope it proves satisfactory.”
Jones said his office door will be open. “I’d like to talk with anybody who needs to talk to me, and I am going to make every attempt not to hide behind my desk. I will block out time on my schedule every day to be out and about somewhere, talking with people, and I am honestly excited by this opportunity.”