Analysis: Where Is Corpus Christi Going and What Zanoni Brings To The Table


Matt Briscoe
Publisher
The Southside Light

Downtown—The city leaders have decided to give Peter Zanoni the chance to bring 22 years of experience to City Hall. The announcement that Council decides to name Zanoni the lone finalist could speak volumes for where city leaders want to take the city in the next future. The fact is that Corpus Christi needs a growth manager who can manage complex growth issues. But is that what the Sparkling City is getting with Zanoni? To many it seems so.

Corpus Christi has a ton of bond packages in play right now and experts say that to keep those projects going and on track you need a solid leader in place—somebody with some real outside experience to put into the game. Judging from his peers and his resume, you can see Zanoni obviously has exactly that.

In his role up in San Antonio, Zanoni oversaw their $850-million, 2017-2022 bond program which is set to lead to some great things for the River City. What he ends up with here are millions in voter approved bonds that has many here wondering what exactly it was they voted for?

Also in his role just up Interstate 37 Zanoni oversees the Planning Department and Neighborhood and Housing Services Department which is certainly right in line with where Corpus Christi city leaders and planners say that they are going.

Zanoni has worked in San Antonio for 22 years and one thing San Antonio has seen plenty of is development—exactly what Corpus Christi needs more of and is slowly getting. If you walk around town and ask average residents (not the back slappers Downtown) you hear that Corpus Christi simply needs things to do. Where San Antonio has capitalized on that, Corpus Christi has been slow to adapt.

Municipal fishing piers like the one at Cole Park and the one out on the Bluff remain in states of shamble. Affordable family fun options are limited around town and what little there is to do has become pretty much “old hat” by now, as they say.

If the city plays its cards right Zanoni seems to be the right person for the job.

“Peter Zanoni will make a great city manager for Corpus Christi,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a statement.

“It is going to take a lot of teamwork and bringing in some new ideas and building a strong team there. It is a city on the move – it has billions of dollars in investments in the port area as well as from the oil and gas industry,” Zanoni told The Rivard Report in San Antonio.

But travel away from the back slappers and suits and you learn that new ideas are often met with old resistance in Corpus Christi. But some around town want to try and change that.

“I don’t know,” says Corpus Christi resident Juan Flores as he loads groceries into his car Wednesday at the H-E-B on Saratoga. “I just hope they were honest and didn’t sell this man a bill of goods.”

Flores admits that he is frustrated with City Hall and has been for awhile now. “You hear all this talk about this and that but the more you try for positive change the more the old guard pushes back,” Flores says.

But maybe this time it will be different. Mayor McComb has been working on team building around City Hall and there is no doubt that community project leaders are more active than ever. Corpus Christi does seem to feel the winds of change blowing right now and the shock they felt when the oil and gas firms left town might finally have started to wear off.

“The problem here is community mistrust in its leadership and its media,” says Brian Jackson, a retiree from the Fort Worth area who also rents a home in Flour Bluff. “There are plenty of us here who live here part time and we sit and wonder why Corpus is lagging behind? It’s because folks don’t trust their leaders and they don’t get real useful information from their local media sources.”

Jackson might be right to some degree but while the tide is changing at City Hall, the hearts of many in the community are still hardened.

Zanoni has to win the trust and support of a city that has grown haggard of the suits and boots crowd that slap backs and shakes hand down at City Hall as they dream back on glory days of when One Shoreline was the place that was going to save us all from ruin. That’s no small feat, but he can do it.

In the mid 90s San Antonio was on some pretty unsure footing. BRAC had pretty much handled Kelly Air Force Base’s future, Downtown was stuck with a mostly empty dead armadillo on its back with Alamodome and Bill Thornton had come in as mayor on the heels of Nelson Wolff who came in to his job in 1991 after ol’  Mrs. Lila had her second go around in the driver’s seat. San Antonio 1995 was a city at a crossroads and in the middle of that mess was a young Peter Zanoni.

He worked quietly behind the scenes they say, honing his skills and learning municipal leadership under some pretty deliberate minds. Slowly but surely he worked his way through the ranks quietly leading San Antonio onto solid footing.

Zanoni learned Texas municipal political wrangling one punch at a time on the tough and often questionable steps of Military Plaza. But now it’s here to Corpus, a boot of a different shape and size that sits at its own crossroads of sorts, at the dividing line between the old guard and the new visionaries.

Time will tell how Zanoni does and if he meshes well with the back slappers. But more importantly, will the Shoreliner’s let him get to work and stay out of the way? Time will tell, time will tell.

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