Interview by Gaige Davila
The South Padre Parade virtually interviewed Jared Hockema, City Manager of Port Isabel, to learn about his administrative role in the coastal community several thousand call home. Want to see a local leader featured in the Parade? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
What is the city manager’s role in a city, particularly in Port Isabel?
The City Manager is the administrator of the city. He or she supervises the department heads, offers advice and guidance to the city commission and implements the policies that are adopted by the commission. In a smaller city, such as Port Isabel, the city manager will wear different hats, helping out with finance, planning, emergency management, etc., so it’s important to have a broad range of experience and abilities.
I’ve also been very glad to help our staff develop, and improve at their jobs. We’ve been doing more with less these past few years, and more than anything, it’s a testament to our city employees.
How long have you been the City Manager of Port Isabel?
Since May of 2015.
What led you to the job?
I’ve lived in the Laguna Madre area since I was a teenager, and have had a lot of affection for the City of Port Isabel and the people here since that time. The city was going through some challenges at that time, and I’ve worked with other cities that have gone through similar challenges, and so I felt that I could make a difference.
That last part really is what motivates me. I have worked in government my entire career. It’s very gratifying to know that you had a role in improving something, or creating something. At the same time, for every one thing you were able to work on, there are always ten more things that can be done. So your work is never done.
How would you describe Port Isabel to someone who has never been?
It’s a beautiful city with great people. It has great attractions, and great places to eat. It’s a caring, welcoming place that has the fun and beauty of a coastal town, but without the frenetic pace, noise and hustle and bustle that many tourist locations have.
How has your role changed, if at all, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 has created new challenges for the city. Obviously, with a tourist-based economy, we’ve had some pretty sharp drops in revenue. At the same time, demand for some services has increased, so we’ve had to rebalance and try to meet those demands.
The larger challenge, though, has been trying to keep people safe, despite differences of opinion and changing authorities. I think we’ve been leaders in coming up with solutions to these challenges, and leadership is what this moment calls for. You have to continue to look towards the future, find a path and reassure people.
What do you do on your down time?
I like to read and spend time with my pets.
Any last words to Port Isabel residents and visitors?
Yes, thank you to the residents of this city for their support so far. We’ve been focused on improving basic services and lining up the resources necessary for infrastructure improvements. We have some exciting projects coming up. We are also going to keep working to preserve and enhance our natural environment.
To the visitors, I also thank them for sharing their time with us. We welcome you and hope you will return many times in the future.