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Enter the Conqueror

A lunchtime discussion with Tacoma's new city manager

Design by Pappi Swarner

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Tacoma, meet The Conqueror. Broadnax the Conqueror. If you want to be formal about it, he is soon-to-be appointed Tacoma City Manager T.C. Broadnax.

Based on a lunch-hour conversation, I've unilaterally decided he's just what Tacoma needs.

Like most conquerors, Broadnax is strong. He doesn't take any crap, at least not from me. He's personable, candid and clearly remains in possession of a portion of his humanity. Spend enough time talking to politicians, and you begin to appreciate the ones who don't sound like they're auditioning all the time.

Broadnax is aware of at least some of the political landscape in Tacoma, and doesn't bullshit when he doesn't. He's serious about his business. Real serious. While he's being serious about his business, he listens to Anita Baker, Jazmine Sullivan and Mary J. Blige, among others.

"That's what you'll hear piping out of my office on a daily basis," says The Conqueror, who says we can call him whatever we want, which suggests he doesn't take himself too seriously.

Again, got a good feeling about this guy.

In early-to-mid February, Broadnax will replace interim City Manager Rey Arellano, who last year replaced former City Manager Eric Anderson on an interim basis. Tacoma City Council members voted not to renew Anderson's contract last year, sparking the search for his replacement.

Enter Broadnax the Conqueror. He's tasked with helping to keep the lights on, making sure someone sands the streets when it snows, battling crime, building bridges between neighborhoods, balancing and resolving budgets, and sharing the blame when things go wrong. Occasionally, the blame will be deserved.

Broadnax arrives at a challenging point in Tacoma's history. Budgets are upside down. City employees are facing layoffs - or at least the ever-present threat of layoffs. Projects - public and private - are backing up. Years of economic hardship have battered Tacoma's small business community, and the loss of Russell Investments and other major employers still sting. Those losses, combined with the demise of several promising private development projects, have severely confused Tacoma's economic development identity. City service providers are expected to do more and more with less. Many citizens are frustrated, afraid, distrustful and ready for a change.

The Conqueror says he looks forward to the challenge.

"I wouldnt have it any other way," Broadnax says. "Challenges bring out the best in me, and in the many wonderfully-bright city administratiors I work with (in San Antonio). I plan to spend time with (Tacoma City) council and the mayor to identify issues, get focused, and learn what they'd like to get done. I'm going to meet a lot of people. I want to make sure I am in line and working with council on what they believe are the priorities. And I'm going to get to know the community as best I can."

Broadnax says he takes his role as public servant seriously, and will work to build coalitions across diverse community groups, cooperate with the City Council, and help educate and reach out to Tacoma's citizens. First things first, Broadnax says he will walk in "lock-step" with Tacoma City Council. And in an era when more and more citizens expect to be involved in shaping their communities, Broadnax says he places special emphasis on transparency, making city government accessible and facilitating a learning process that empowers citizens to participate. The goal, as most government officials will tell you, is about maximizing quality of life for citizens.

Some of them, like The Conqueror it seems, actually mean it.

"Tacoma is a diverse community, and there are all sorts of things going on there," Broadnax says. "There is a need there to bring all the stakeholders together to do the best for Tacoma. The council is very engaged, as is the community. I think my background will lend itself to reaching a shared vision and bringing people together. I think Tacoma is a community looking for something different, and I think I bring that."

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