In an unanimous vote, Wharton City Council named Joseph R. Pace as the finalist in its city manager search. Pace replaces Andres Garza Jr. as Wharton City Manager.
Today, June 15, Pace officially began his tenure with the City of Wharton.
Becoming a manager
Joseph R. Pace served three years as an infantryman in the United States Army. He earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Public Administration from Lamar University in Beaumont. He obtained his Professional Community & Economic Development certification in 2019 from the Community Development Institute at Lone Star College, and completed a Graduate Certificate in Urban & Regional Planning from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2020.
After receiving sound advice from Beaumont City Manager Kyle Hayes, Pace began his career in public service in 2007 as a Court Administrator for the City of Copperas Cove, Texas.
“When I started the MPA program at Lamar University, I focused my classes towards city government,” Pace told The County Gin. “I interviewed the Beaumont city manager and said, ‘You know, I’m thinking about making a change to get into city government.’
“I was in my early thirties. I didn’t know if I was too old. But [Hayes] told me to, ‘get into a city and work your butt off. They’ll recognize your talent and you’ll get promoted.’ The city manager of Copperas Cove took a chance on me with no city experience as court administrator.”
While in that position and because he had obtained his Masters, Pace was assigned to the city manager’s executive staff.
“Even though I was mid-level at best, she still gave me the opportunity to see behind the curtain as executive staff,” Pace said. “I was able to look at how the city was run.”
He went on to serve as the interim city planner, and ultimately, was assigned as the director of parks and recreation for the city of Copperas Cove.
Pace became the city manager for the City of Lorena in December 2015. Throughout his tenure with Lorena, he served on the WMARSS Board of Directors, Policy Board of the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization, and as Co-chair of the Area Economic Development Corporation.
He is a member of the Texas City Management Association, where he serves on the TCMA Advocacy Committee, American Planners Association, Texas Floodplain Managers Association, and the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Coming to Wharton
After seeing the Wharton city manager position wasn’t fulfilled three months from the initial posting, Pace decided to throw his name into the hat.
“No matter what part of the state I was in, I always ran across someone that knew someone from Wharton, and they would always speak very highly of that person,” Pace told The Gin. “Even when I announced that I was interviewing for Wharton, everyone that I came across said great things about the city.
“While I was interviewing, I took time to drive around town. I mean, I drove through every neighborhood to get a feel for the community. Every person I saw, whether they were busy working on something or just walking down the road, stopped and waved.
“That really showed that we have some great people here.”
Pace knew that in order for him to leave Lorena, the next city would have to be on the edge of growth.
“The reputation of Wharton is that it is a great hometown, but also that it is about to grow,” he said. “Wharton has many projects, like the levee, that will greatly benefit the city and it’s bound to grow. Now, what comes with that growth, that is up to us. It’s going to be a managed growth for sure.”
Mayor Tim Barker said that Pace’s leadership style set him apart from the other applicants.
“I liked his personality and leadership style,” Barker told The Gin. “His ideas for Wharton’s future are right along with ours. I am confident he will be able to come in and carry this city forward.”
Barker mentioned that Pace would have big shoes to fill, and to that Pace said, “I’m ready.”
“I’ve already told the staff that I have met, that I know I’m going to hear, ‘oh, Mr. Garza did it this way,’ or, ‘You replaced Mr. Garza’, and I’m ready for it,” Pace said. “I’m not new to it. With the city of Lorena, I faced the same.
“When I spoke with Mr. Garza, I told him, ‘This is your legacy. I understand that you have worked extremely hard to get Wharton to where it is today. I value that; I understand that; and I will honor that. I’m not going to do anything to taint that. I am going to work to continue that legacy and build on it.”
One of Pace’s main items on his list is to build relationships with neighboring entities.
“I’m going to make direct efforts to extend friendships to the county, local municipalities, the junior college, and local schools,” he said. “Relationships that our city will reap benefits from, that’s what I want to focus on. If they aren’t there, I want to establish them. If they are there, I want to cultivate them.”
Pace along with his wife, Lori, and the couple’s three dogs will make their way in Wharton shortly following Pace’s introduction.
Those wishing to welcome Mr. Pace can do so by contacting the City of Wharton at 979-532-2491.
Please join The Gin in welcoming Wharton’s newest city manager — Joseph R. Pace.