How I Think.
Javier Vega's Approach for Bellaire
The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis taught me to seek hope in everyone I meet. The business world taught me to temper my sense of hope with a sense of caution. I am passionate, I am duty bound, and I am a pragmatist.
In my personal life, I dream of a beautiful world for my wife and children, but when executing my fiduciaries I protect my beneficiaries by vigilantly recognizing the real world that we live in.
I’m proud of my strong quantitative and technical skills, but those capabilities merely set a solid base for developing financial skills, a vested participant’s knowledge of legal contracting and proceedings, and learned and innate general management skills.
My core values are Common Sense, Accountability, Financial Responsibility, Respect for Neighbors and Community, and above all, Egalitarianism.
My efficient style in a board setting comes from observing my mentors:
Say what you need to say plainly and quickly, then pass the mic.
You learn more from listening than from talking, don’t speak unless you actually need to.
Show respect for other people’s time by making sure every word you say actually means something.
Making compact arguments shows you know your subject matter.
How I will serve Bellaire
How I contribute in board settings:
First of all, I believe this "prioritization of harmony" that certain candidates are espousing is laudable; it shows a kind heart. Harmony is a great thing to have, but in the real world people have different points of view.
The idea that consensus can be borne solely out of congeniality in a council/board setting is not an idea based in reality. We all wish such things were true.
It’s different than a social or club board where in many cases everyone has been placed there specifically because they all have the same opinion.
But anyone who has borne the responsibility of serving on the board of a larger company knows that invested entities demand performance. The decisions there, are so serious and fiduciary in nature, that you have to carry insurance because you can be sued personally by deep institutional pockets simply for not being circumspect or efficient (in addition to the obvious moral standards); I personally carry such policies today.
I agree being cordial is essential, but people get passionate. When people get disrespectful, it only brings the person being disrespectful down, and demonstrates they either don’t have a persuasive argument or they can't articulate it.
Disrespectful behavior is unprofessional, but it simply doesn't bother me personally when it is aimed at me.
That said I will put my significant and respectful record of disciplined written and spoken word, under much greater magnitudes of contentiousness, up against anyone's.
But in terms of priority, advocating for the needs of the average resident of Bellaire comes first, full stop. If elected, I will have the courage of my conviction. Social pressures don't even register with me in this regard.
How I try to arrive at consensus:
You can’t get everything you want all of the time. You also can’t get it by holding the floor indefinitely, filibuster-style. At some point you actually have to care what the other person has to say.
15-minute soliloquies laced with expression of personal emotion waste the city’s time. Coming up, my mentors taught me that if you can’t say what you need to say inside of 5 minutes, you don’t understand your subject matter.
I study other people’s positions in advance, and come prepared to propose solutions that fit my constituency’s needs, but can allow my fellow board members to come away winners as well.
This is a skill I have effectively used across business, regulatory, and litigation matters for decades. It comes from experience dealing with contentious issues with dispassionate efficiency and respectfully treating fellow board members as equals.
What makes me different in this field of candidates:
I have nearly 2 decades of legitimate experience as a business unit P&L (profit and loss) center general manager. It’s a world of nearly pure meritocracy where if you don’t perform, you get fired; and there’s a dozen people behind you dying to move up and take your place.
This is by no means the world we seek to impose on elected officials or staff, but I understand that there must be some accountability, and I am not uncomfortable with the tension that can come with demanding it.
When you lose millions of dollars of your investors’ or constituents’ money because you are careless, you put yourself at risk. This truism is simply indisputable amongst those with experience being tasked with the welfare of beneficiaries.
I would look forward to debating anyone who saw this simple and critical fact differently.
I get efficiency with a carrot, not a stick:
Efficiency isn’t borne in and of itself. Efficiency can be borne out of scale that comes from a successful company’s growth; thus the term “efficiency of scale.” But Bellaire’s organization is not a high-growth entity, so efficiency has to be managed into existence.
If I am elected, I will encourage both council and staff to make efficiency performance a part of upper management’s balanced scorecard, and reward management handsomely for achieving it.
As a rule of thumb, a zero-growth entity that has never had an efficiency program in place can save 7% in the first year, and 5% in each of the next two years after that from its non-personnel costs.
We need to demand it, incentivize it, and above all, reward it.
My opinion on how Staff and Council should interact:
Discussion, between council and staff, of management matters inside the organization is not categorically out of bounds (as some candidates are arguing), and is not mutually exclusive to the board / general manager framework.
Any candidate that doesn’t recognize this, betrays his or her inexperience, and intentionally conflating these two issues is a red herring.
People need to be civil, but true professionals never let a counterparty's absence of civility stop them from delivering.
Whether I have been a board member, a general manager, or held both roles simultaneously, I have always sought a highly consultative relationship. Almost every effective general manager I have known has always sought a consultative relationship. Good communication and good management is a two-way street.
Whether we continue on with existing city manager or renew our search for a new one, the best candidate will be one who truly desires to consult city council on management matters. It is the single best indicator in any manager that they actually care what thier superiors think.