David Atencio, a former regional sales manager for 24 Hour Fitness, has been hired as the general manager for the embattled Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care.
A press conference will be held at 1:30 at City Hall, according to an e-mail from Mayor Bill White's Office.
Atencio's name has been batted around for weeks, but BARC spokeswoman Elena Marks did not respond to repeated requests by the Houston Press to confirm rumors that Atencio was the chosen candidate. (On December 2, Marks told the Press that a new director had not been hired. She declined to respond to two requests to officially state that the city had not narrowed down the list of applicants to one person. Atencio did not return a phone call by the Press made earlier this week).
We don't know much about the 46-year-old Atencio. Hopefully we'll be able to find out more this afternoon, and in the weeks ahead. However, as Marks and Interim Bureau Chief Gerry Fusco have essentially shut down communications with the Press, we're not exactly optimistic.
Update: We didn't learn much about Atencio at the press conference, other than the fact that he has "over 20 years [of] business management experience overseeing large, complex operations in which he has successfully led and developed employees and built customer relations," according to a press release.
Atencio had this to say:
"This is an exciting position for me. First of all, there's a lot of great things going on at BARC right now, and so my role is going to be to take it to the next level. I know that I have a lot of support behind me." He also said he would "continue to build upon our future capital expenditures, which is [an area of my] expertise. I also will help in the coaching and development of our team, and help with the overall staffing, and making sure that we're doing the correct operational procedures that Gerry's already laid in. The great thing is, I've got Gerry [Fusco] for six weeks...For me, that's invaluable, but I also know that I have Gerry for me at any time...I am looking forward to it. This is really a dream job for me, and I am blessed to be here."
Fusco kicked off the proceedings with a quick summary of improvements he's said have been made during his tenure at BARC, including a record 934 live releases during November. He also said 300 animals have been spayed or neutered in the last 30 days.
We took the opportunity to ask him if, under the new management, transparency will be a priority, and if the public will have better access (via the media) to public information.
Fusco said in response: "We are trying to create a positive organziation, a positive business, and we're trying to assure that our employes and managers feel that they can work with the outside world, the public, to make a better BARC. And quite frankly, I've been instrumental in sort of protecting that, because when I first came in...we had anti-BARC, and we had BARC workers that were dedicated to the health and welfare [of the animals]. So we're trying to focus on the positive side."
Because that apparently was an answer to a question no one asked, we asked again if the City will actually answer questions about how the public's tax dollars are being spent at BARC.
"The answer to that is yes," Fusco said. "...I don't know...of anyone who has refused to provide that information."
That's pretty funny, because we do.