The view of Quakertown Park from the Denton city manager's corner office is particularly beautiful this time of year -- the tulips, pansies, irises, roses and even the trees are blooming. Todd Hileman says he's not in his office much during the day to take it in. The new city manager's daily schedule takes him out to meetings across the city.
"It's usually dark by the time I get back," Hileman says.
On the job since Jan. 24, Hileman is settling into the responsibility of managing Denton's billion-dollar budget and nearly 2,000 employees day-to-day. Before coming to Denton, he was at the helm for 13 years in Glenview, Illinois, a wealthy Chicago suburb of 45,000. Hileman has worked in city management for about 25 years and has a master's degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University.
His wife, Tina Hileman, and their 11-year-old daughter, Mandy, will move to Denton in a few months, after Mandy finishes her sixth-grade year. Tina Hileman is in school, too, finishing a master's degree in divinity at North Park University, a private school associated with the Evangelical Covenant Church. She'll leave behind a post serving as a hospital chaplain.
For the first few months in Denton, Todd Hileman rented an apartment near Timber Links Golf Course in southeastern Denton. He moved a few weeks ago into the family's new home a little further south, in the Thistle Hills subdivision.
On Thursday, Hileman and other city leaders will present the "State of the City." The event will include formal remarks and an open house-style presentations, so residents can learn more about city projects. Hileman said he hopes residents will bring their questions to city leaders, too.
The Denton Record-Chronicle caught up with Hileman this week to ask a few other important questions for new folks who aren't from here. Here's how the conversation went:
How does a kid from Albuquerque become a Green Bay Packers fan?
That's a good question. I actually became a big Packers fan when I was a city manager in Wisconsin. I grew up watching the Chiefs and the Broncos in a town in Nebraska. When I moved to Albuquerque, of course, that was Cowboy territory. When I moved to Wisconsin, my fire chief at the time had a personal seat license for the Packers, so I went up there a couple of times with him. I was a big Brett Favre fan. I still am. I loved his "cowboy" mentality. He's a little crazy, a really great quarterback, a risk-taker, as you can tell by holding the all-time interceptions record. I thought he was a linebacker playing quarterback. I always enjoyed him. The mentality he brought was fearless. I've been a big Packers fan ever since.
You've got an Apple Watch. Do you like it?
I'm still getting used to it. I've had it about six months. I didn't think I would like it, but it grew on me. I use it for my workouts and it's nice to scribble emails on it. You can text on it. When it starts ringing, depending on whether you're ready for it, it kind of shocks a little bit because it rests on your wrist bone.
You lived in Chicago, so you know about winter extremes. Are you ready for Texas summers?
The winters didn't bother me there in either Wisconsin or Illinois. I know that people think it's super cold, but it just never bothered me too much. I enjoyed the change of the season.
I think I'm ready for it. I've lived in Phoenix for a long time, too. I went to college there and was a city manager there for a while. I suppose I'm waiting to see what the difference is between 115 degrees outside and 105 degrees with humidity.
This time of year, it's great, in the 70s and 80s. This is perfect weather, as far as I'm concerned.
My wife would have a different answer. She definitely would prefer the hot summers over the winters there.
What's on your bucket list?
I want to be there when my daughter graduates from college. And, we've recently done some traveling. Every couple of years, we've been taking a trip for a week or two, so some of that stuff is getting marked off.
We just got back from Scotland and England for a couple weeks. And we took our daughter to Paris and Rome when she was 8 years old. She's gotten to see a lot of stuff. I was a little afraid to take her — maybe we were wasting money — but she still writes about Rome and seeing the Coliseum and Paris and the Louvre, so that's kind of neat. I'm glad we did it then because it doesn't feel safe right now taking my family over there, given some of the stuff that's going on.
My wife and I were married for 17 years before we had kids. We wanted to make sure [our daughter] was old enough to travel before we took her places and to do some of those things.
I want to go to Ireland and make it up to the Isle of Skye and some of those places like that. I've never spent time in Germany or Switzerland, so I'd like to go there, too.
We've heard you are a craft beer fan. What are your favorites?
I like the stouts and the real hoppy IPAs [India pale ales]. In Chicago, everything is Lagunitas and Goose Island [breweries] 24/7. Here, I've been looking at local Texas beers. Right now, I like the Deep Ellum [Brewing Co.] and some of the Audacity products.
Is there a difference between a craft beer in Chicago and one in Texas?
Not really. The ones that are really good are really good. They have similar qualities to them.
What can people expect at the "State of the City" presentation Thursday?
I think an open discussion about the major projects that are going on. In the city, people are always interested in road projects and that kind of development. We're really shooting to provide folks a meaningful overview of what we're working on and also provide people an opportunity to ask Mayor [Chris] Watts any questions that they have on their mind. There will be an open house component to it. There's a video that the staff has been working on. Mayor Watts has some remarks he'll be making as well.
The council seems to be receptive to doing this on a more frequent basis, so that's good. We're talking about ways of being more aggressive in getting out into the neighborhoods. Why do we need to wait for an item or concern to blow up? Why not host a community meeting beforehand to make sure residents have information ahead of time?
That's one of the discussions we're having: How do we get more proactive with the information and make sure that people feel like they are heard ahead of the planning commission or the council? There's been a lot of discussions in the past couple of weeks about using Facebook tools in addition to door hangers or roadway signs. How can we use media more effectively, getting people to sign up for our distribution lists? Are we communicating proactively in the way that people are now being trained to access information? It's a pretty serious thing to be putting our time into now, and we're trying our best to figure it out.
One final question: barbecue or tacos?
I'm probably more of a taco fan. I like barbecue, but tacos are more from my New Mexico upbringing.
If You Go
What: State of the City — major milestones from the past year and key priorities for the future
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, with a formal talk by Mayor Chris Watts at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Denton Civic Center, 321 E. McKinney St.
Details: Learn more about opportunities to get involved in the community and city affairs.