Duncanville City Council recently announced Aretha R. Ferrell-Benavides as their new City Manager, with a start date of Feb. 22, 2021. Ferrell-Benavides is no stranger to the Best Southwest area, having previously served two years as City Manager for the City of Glenn Heights. Since July 2017, she has served as City Manager for Petersburg, VA., and is credited with helping pull that city back from financial collapse. After a $7.7 million deficit in 2016, city officials announced an $8 million fund balance by 2018, their largest in over a decade.
Duncanville Mayor Barry Gordon
Duncanville Mayor Barry Gordon said, “The many hours the entire City Council spent evaluating numerous candidates for our new City Manager resulted in the selection of a superb, highly experienced individual. We look forward to Ms. Ferrell-Benavides’ innovative contributions to the continued sustainability of our City of Champions.”
With nearly 30 years of professional experience at all levels of government, Ferrell-Benavides spent much of her career in Washington, D.C. She served as the Deputy Secretary of the State for the District of Columbia. Serving under four Mayoral Administrations, she held such positions as Chief Operating Officer for the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation; Chief of Staff for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Children, Youth, Families and Elders; and Director for the Office of Neighborhood Action and the Community Empowerment Cluster.
Ferrell-Benavides Commitment to Government
Exhibiting a true commitment to government, Ferrell-Benavides previously served as the Assistant County Administrator for Los Alamos County, NM. In that role, she managed the County’s Intergovernmental Program and Economic Development. For the City of Sunnyvale, CA. She also served as Assistant to the City Manager, overseeing Sunnyvale’s Intergovernmental and Legislative programs.
From 1989 to 1995, Ferrell-Benavides worked with the Central Intelligence Agency as an undergraduate intern and later as Graduate Fellow focusing on Soviet Military Issues. Her first local government job was with the City of Fort Worth in 1988 as a summer employee. From 1995 to 1997, she served as the Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Governor of Maryland. From 1997 to 2002, Ferrell-Benavides served the City of Chicago as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Chicago Housing Authority, and as Assistant Chief Information Officer for the Department of Business and Information Services.
Return to Texas
Ferrell-Benavides said she is looking forward to returning to Texas and the Best Southwest area, where many of her family members reside.
“I plan to relocate in February.” Ferrell-Benavides said. “While serving as City Manager in Glenn Heights, we built a home in the community. For a short time, I will live there, but my goal is to be settled into Duncanville by the end of April. My goal is to spend at least a week in Duncanville prior to starting to get the ball rolling and familiarize myself with the staff and community.”
“When I moved to Virginia my husband (former Dallas City Manager Ted Benavides) remained in Texas. After retirement from the City of Dallas, he has spent the last 15 years as a professor and head of the public administration program at the University of Texas at Dallas, and has remained at our home in Glenn Heights. My son, Geoffry Brown, is a sophomore Political Science major at the University of Kansas. He also plans to pursue a career in local government,” she said.
Former City Manager Kevin Hugman
Duncanville’s previous City Manager, Kevin Hugman, had served the City for five years. He initially announced his retirement in Nov. 2019 for the following May, but agreed to remain through June after Covid-19 restrictions caused a slowdown in the search for his replacement.
Hugman told this newspaper in an earlier article that accomplishments during his tenure included the “Overwhelming voter approval of the $22.6 million bond program for major improvements such as a new Kidsville/splashpad, new park pavilions and restroom/concession buildings, a new fire station, and street reconstruction projects.”
Ferrell-Benavides said, “Duncanville is a well-established, well-run City. From both the Council and staff, they represent years of professional experience. I consider it an honor to be considered as part of the team. My focus is to be a supportive yet innovative leader. Given the projects that are underway I hope to help push them to completion. Also, I think a big focus, like with many cities, is help the city government, businesses, and residents as a whole move forward in wake of COVID.”
Covid-19 Economic Challenges
In light of the economic challenges that face Duncanville and other communities following COVID-19, Ferrell-Benavides said, “I think that COVID-19 has given us a new reality, one that Duncanville has prepared for with a positive fund balance. However, our business community will need our support. The business models of the past in some cases have been forever altered. We need to now focus on not only business recruitment but business development and retention strategies. I hope through our Mayor, City Council and Economic Development team to collectively work toward new ways to support and help our business community through these challenging times.”
“For 30 years I have pursued a career in local government,” she said. “My pursuit has led me all over the country. The one thing as a manager that matters most is the opportunity to serve near where my aspiration first began, which was in Fort Worth. My mother worked for 28 year with the City of Fort Worth. It was her work that inspired me to pursue this career. In fact, I held my first summer job in local government with the City of Fort Worth in 1988. So Duncanville feels like a homecoming for me. I am so excited to have the opportunity to lead in a place that is home to many of my friends and family. I am now even more excited about the opportunity to call this my new home.”
New City Manager
Ferrell-Benavides said she looks forward to working with Duncanville’s civic groups. “In my current role, civic groups are a critical part of the community. My goal is to not only meet with these groups but to become actively engaged with the local organizations. Here in Petersburg our Rotary Club plays a significant role in our community, I have participated in their meetings and activities and served as their meeting speaker. I am currently a member of our local Kiwanis Club in Petersburg, which consists of many of the city’s key community leaders and decision makers.”
She also serves on several intergovernmental boards, including Riverside Regional Jail Authority (Secretary Treasurer), Crater Youth Correctional Center (Chair), South Central Wastewater Authority (Vice-Chair), Petersburg Area Regional Tourism, Appomattox River Water Authority and Crater Planning District.
Councilman Don McBurnett
Recently re-elected Duncanville City Councilman Place 2/Mayor Pro Tem Don McBurnett said, “I am excited to welcome Aretha Ferrell-Benavides to Duncanville as our next city manager. She brings a well-rounded base of experience to continue the current and future progress in Duncanville. Since the retirement of Duncanville City Manager Kevin Hugman, Paul Frederiksen needs to be commended for doing a fine job as Interim City Manager,” McBurnett added. “Ms. Ferrell-Benavides has a solid background in Municipal Government, and looks forward to being here.”
Ferrell-Benavides is committed to serving in the field of Public Administration, and is a member of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). Since 1988, Ferrell-Benavides has been a faithful and supportive member of the NFBPA, first serving as the organization’s student representative on the national board of directors. She later served as President of the Chicago Chapter, Vice-President of the Council of Presidents, National Secretary/Treasurer, 2nd Vice-President, and 1st Vice-President. Ultimately she served as their National President.
Ferrell-Benavides Leadership Roles
A 1995 Graduate of the NFBPA’s Mentor Program, she is a 1999 graduate of the Executive Leadership Institute. In 2017, she was awarded the Marks of Excellence Award, bestowed upon an African-American Public Administrator who has achieved extraordinary success in the field of public management. Early in her career, she was awarded the NFBPA Young Public Administrator of the Year Award. This is a nationally competitive award recognizing an administrator, under age 35, who has demonstrated an above-average commitment and success in both the profession and community.
Ferrell-Benavides is a Silver Star member of the Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA, and a Master of Arts in Public Administration from Howard University in Washington, DC. She has also completed the University of Virginia Senior Executive Institute, and is part of the 2015 Class of Leadership Southwest.