Some residents are speculating Mayor Dorothy Childress, who for about a year has led an ailing city without a professional administrator, is set to resign after undergoing surgery for a broken leg and a second surgery for a heart problem.
City Secretary Lucy Dieringer, however, said Wednesday she hadn’t heard that the mayor has any plans to do so.
“As far as I know, she’s coming back,” Dieringer said. “As soon as she can get around.”
Dieringer didn’t have a timeframe for Childress’ return, however.
The mayor about a month ago fell and broke a bone in her leg, and learned she needed heart valve replacement surgery before doctors could operate on her leg, Dieringer said.
Childress, 75, is out of the hospital and going through physical rehabilitation, but can’t put weight on her leg, Dieringer said.
Childress took over as head of the financially struggling community of about 8,000 north of Galveston Bay more than a year ago and has overseen a commission that passed a balanced budget and kept the city’s tax rate flat for 2019.
Anthony Matranga, the mayor who Childress replaced, resigned in November 2017 for health reasons.
The balanced budget came with deep cuts to city expenses, accomplished in part by reducing the number of city employees, particularly from the police department, which caused backlash from among residents.
A group of residents, for instance, has been pursuing a recall campaign against Childress because of what they’ve called a lack of transparency, mismanagement of funds and because of her decision to fire John Hamm, who had been chief of police.
The search for an administrator to lead Hitchcock is moving ahead despite the mayor’s absence, however, officials said.
Mayor pro tem Randy Stricklind appointed six residents to review applications for a city administrator and police chief, said Sam Collins, one of the members of the committee.
The city received more than 10 applications for each position, Collins said.
The committee will narrow down the applications to a list of candidates the city commission will then interview, Collins said.
The commission might be able to vote on a new administrator by the end of the year, but it could be 2019 before someone is chosen, Collins said.
Officials aren’t likely to have a new police chief in place before 2019, Collins said.
The city commission since July has been searching for someone to fill a city administrator position.
Hiring a professional, trained and experienced administrator to lead the city could help solve problems and keep the community operating smoothly in the years to come, commissioners said.
Childress served as mayor of Hitchcock in the 1980s when the city had an administrator, but subsequent city commissions eliminated the position, she said in a previous interview with The Daily News.