On Friday the city’s executive search consultant, Whitney Smith Co., was still negotiating with the candidate, David Cooke, retired Wake County, N.C., county manager.
A news release from City Hall quotes Mayor Betsy Price who said, “Once that [ negotiation ] process is complete, final approval will come before Council for a vote as soon as possible.”
If approved by the City Council, Cooke would replace current City Manager Tom Higgins, who had been in the position since 2011. At Fort Worth City Hall since 1987 in various positions, Higgins announced his resignation in late 2013. Before he was appointed city manager he had been an assistant city manager and deputy city manager, as well as in other key roles.
“Filling Tom Higgins’ shoes will not be easy but we are confident that we have a finalist who will do just that and more,” Price said in the news release.
Cooke is currently a principal and director of business development for Mulkey Engineers and Consultants in Cary, N.C. Before going to work for the civil engineering firm in January 2014, Cooke served Wake County, N.C., as county manager from 2000 to 2013, and as deputy county manager from 1996 to 2000. He retired from fast-growing, 975,000-resident Wake County in November 2013.
Cooke is credited with successfully leading more than a dozen bond referenda and with recruiting several high-profile corporations to the county including Fidelity Investments, Novartis and MetLife. During his tenure, he administered a workforce of 3,600 employees and a $1.2 billion budget. Fort Worth’s current budget is $1.4 billion.
Cooke also served the city of Charlotte, N.C., from 1985 to 1996 in several budget, finance and operations positions. The population of Charlotte is about 775,000, slightly less than Fort Worth's approximately 778,000.
Cooke was among three original finalists for the Fort Worth position. In January, he went through a similar process for the city manager position in Dallas, which ultimately went to an internal candidate.