Odis Jones has an “optimistic vision” for Missouri City. The municipality’s eighth Chief Administrative Officer was recently sworn in by Mayor Yolanda Ford to serve the residents and City Manager Jones sat down with MCTV for an exclusive conversation to discuss challenges the City faces, and ideas for the future of the community.
“First off, I want to say to the residents, I’m truly humbled for the opportunity to serve Missouri City, and I’m excited to get to know them,” Jones said. “I’ve spent the last 20 to 25 years of my life helping communities grow, and I’m looking forward to working with the Mayor, the Council and the citizens to implement their vision for the community.”
Jones was appointed as the City’s new Chief Executive Officer after a nationwide search. According to Mayor Ford, Jones stood out as the top candidate due to his successful track record as a collaborative and seasoned executive with more than two decades of expertise in managing complex governmental operations and economic development organizations. He has managed a budget of more than $250 million and 1,500 employees during his career.
“He comes to us by way of Hutto and the City was in a financial strain when he got there, and he was able to bring resolution to the situation,” said Mayor Ford. “That was something that was very impressive to me as well as his economic development experience that he brings to the table.”
Economic development is a key issue in Missouri City, particularly along the Texas Parkway and Cartwright Road Corridors. One Council priority is to bring development and redevelopment to this area in an attempt to lighten the property tax burden for residents.
“Texas Parkway is an important gateway corridor through the City and we have to pay attention to it,” City Manager Jones said. He added that “there are also a lot of exciting things happening throughout the City and we are paying attention to those initiatives as well.”
Mayor Ford added: “Texas Parkway and Cartwright Road have kind of been a sore spot. With this priority and the opportunities we have going on all over the City, we’re making sure the entire community is developing efficiently and working efficiently.
With any new CEO comes an introductory phase. As part of his operational oversight, Jones is regularly meeting with Members of Council and departments heads. He is also scheduling meetings with residents and stakeholders to discuss key issues, keeping in mind the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“CEO 101 says you take the time to not only evaluate an organization, but as Abraham Lincoln said, ‘You get out amongst the troops.’ I intend to get out and mingle and get to know people,” Jones said. “Although we’re dealing with COVID, a lot of it will be virtual. Additionally, I really want to get out with the Mayor and Councilmembers to have a listening tour in the community.”
And despite the societal crises involved with the pandemic, City Manager Jones knows how to spot a silver lining.
“Our sales tax actually went up during COVID. That shows that if given the opportunity, the community will stay here and shop here,” he said. “I’m looking at how do we take this tragic story of COVID and turn it into a great story for Missouri City.”
Mr. Jones has already toured City districts and has visited the municipal amenities—Quail Valley Golf Course, City Centre, Recreation & Tennis Center, Community Center and Visitors Center. During his visits, he saw the value each location brings to the City, and he knows these amenities are key assets to the City’s economic success.
“The [Quail Valley] golf course is a jewel for the City,” he said. “Not only is it a great place to do entertaining and events, but from a marketing and development standpoint, it’s an opportunity to conduct business.”
City Manager Jones cited a study performed by USA Today that shows executives prefer to live close to their office, and with Missouri City being home to many executives, his goal is to foster those relationships to help grow the community.
“We need to figure out what is the next step from a development standpoint. The center of all of that is community participation,” he said. “What I want to do is work with some of the CEOs who live here and who have experience in marketing and development so we as a community can move forward together, and that’s how we take that next step.”
As the City continues to evolve, one focus area is becoming a “smart city,” meaning the City as a whole stays on the cutting edge of technology and innovation. Jones acknowledged the Council initiative to replace City lights with LED fixtures, and also commended the efforts by the City to be more energy efficient.
Jones understands that as the community adapts to the growth of technology, the City must keep the driving force—the younger generation—in mind when it comes to planning for the future.
“Young people today look at YouTube, TV and apps like Twitter and they don’t have the old cable. We need to make sure their creativity is embedded in what we do,” he said. “We need to allow them to lead and get them out in front as well. I want to establish a youth leadership committee here at City Hall. They have a different way of moving and we need to embrace that.”
One area of operations the City prides itself on is transparency, not only when it comes to finances but also with operations as a whole. Mr. Jones sees this segment of government as a way to ensure the residents are being served properly as this is a way to bridge the gap between the government and the community.
Among the projects Mr. Jones has initiated is a new centralized strategic communications plan that he says will help improve how the City communicates both internally and externally, which in turn will strengthen the City’s transparency.
“When it comes to transparency, we have a really good technology base, and we need to use those resources when it comes to communicating,” he said.
Although finance and economic development are two of the biggest goals Jones has, his plan for growth is based around a customer-service focus. As residents and businesses are vital customers for the City, Mr. Jones wants to ensure everybody is treated with the highest quality of service.
“I really believe the customer is always right. I want customers to let us know what we are doing well and what we need to be better at. At the end of the day, it’s about making sure the customer gets what they need, and that they get it in a timely manner.”
Mr. Jones knows some of the City’s challenges are being amplified due to COVID, but he also understands it is his obligation to the residents to keep pushing the City forward and ensuring a maximum level of success and quality of life.
“I’m optimistic about putting us in a position where we can win,” City Manager Jones said. “And by that I mean achieving those visions that Council has and having the wins be advancements the community can be proud of. I’m excited about that.”
If residents, businesses and stakeholders would like to meet with Mr. Jones, they may submit a request to do so on the City Website via this link: https://bit.ly/2PkN4Fd.
To watch the full discussion, click on the below video links:
For more information about Missouri City, please watch the City website: www.missouricitytx.gov, like us on Facebook—fb/MissouriCityTX, follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat—@MissouriCityTX and Nextdoor, watch Missouri City Television (Ch. 16 on Comcast and Ch. 99 on AT&T U-verse) or download the MCTX Mobile app (available for free in Google Play and the Apple app store).