CORINTH — Jim Berzina announced during a recent City Council meeting that after serving as interim city manager since 2009, it’s time for him to step down and time for Corinth to find a replacement.
Thursday’s announcement came as no surprise to some city officials, Berzina said, because he’s been discussing his plans with council members and city staff.
Berzina said stepping down was a tough decision to make because he’s enjoyed almost every moment of working for Corinth.
“It’s been a pleasure working here,” he said. “I don’t want to leave, but I believe it’s time to start looking for a permanent city manager.”
During the meeting, Berzina said people have sometimes joked that he doesn’t know what the word “interim” means, based on his lengthy tenure in Corinth.
“We’ve come through a lot of things together, and the city is in a better place now,” he said. “This is a good time to leave.”
Council members praised Berzina for his leadership, but no one more than Mayor Paul Ruggiere, who jokingly said he had to refrain from “gushing” over how much Berzina has done for the city.
“For a time, the city manager position had a lot of turnover, but Mr. Berzina brought stability to it,” Ruggiere said. “I have to say, the staff that worked up [with] Mr. Berzina is the strongest group of people that has ever worked for the city.”
Ruggiere said Berzina has helped improve infrastructure, parks and city operations.
Most recently, under Berzina’s leadership, the council and city staff worked to resolve conflicts with the funding of the joint Lake Cities Fire Department, and the city now has a budget surplus going into the next fiscal year after consecutive years of difficult budgeting.
Council members admitted the city was “broken” before Berzina took over.
“It was broken,” Ruggiere said. “And I think that’s because city staff didn’t have a leader. We had about 10 city managers in 10 years.”
Council members said Berzina worked hard to help Corinth turn its image around and improve staff and community relations.
“There was no stability until Jim came,” council member Joe Harrison said. “He listened to our suggestions and oppositions. And he did that with the residents, too.
“Jim wasn’t our interim city manager, he is the city manager. I don’t care what he says.”
Before joining Corinth, Berzina served a long tenure with Wichita Falls, where he was city manager from 1983 to 2008, when he retired.
He began his public service career in Springfield, Mo., as assistant city manager from 1967 to 1970. He continued his career in Missouri working as city manager for both Warrensburg and Joplin before heading down to Texas, where he has remained ever since.
He has served on boards including the Missouri Municipal League, Missouri City Management Board, Texas City Management Board, International City Management Retirement Board and the International City Management Board.
Born and raised in Iowa, Berzina earned his bachelor’s degree in government at the University of South Dakota and his master’s degree at the University of Kansas.
During the closed executive session, the council was slated to discuss how to move forward with finding a new manager. Ruggiere said he expects finding a new manager will be a discussion for the council during the next few weeks.
JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.