Former Alexandria city manager Douglas Harman leaned forward in the helicopter hovering 700 feet above this city last week and still couldn't see all the Texas territory he now manages.
Pointing to the sheep, cattle and swine in the stockyards below, Harman compared this city of 455,000 -- of which he became manager six weeks ago -- to the pocket-sized city of 103,000 he left March 1.
As the helicopter swooped over the winding Trinity River, Harman nodded toward the outskirts of one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, where endless miles of black, paved roads snake over the reddish Texas dirt. "Look out there. There's development everywhere."
After three new pairs of cowboy boots, Harman says he is starting to settle into this southwestern city, 30 miles shy of Dallas, where he faces a set of troubles that spring from fast development and a racially diverse population.
But old troubles still haunt Harman, who said the thought of his final days in Alexandria infuriates him.
"I still get angry about how the Alexandria City Council handled the whole thing," he said referring to the controversy that arose after the Alexandria Port Packet, a local newspaper, reported allegations that Harman appointee Charles T. Strobel, the director of public safety, improperly halted a police drug probe. Two City Council members called for a grand jury investigation, and they denounced Harman for not suspending Strobel.
"I was there for so long," said the 44-year-old manager, who said he still receives notes from neighborly Alexandrians who miss him after his nine years as the city's top administrator. "I thought it was a helluva way to treat me . . . . I was glad to get out of there."
Now, 2,000 miles away from the Alexandria controversy -- which has since been defused by a grand jury report that vindicated Strobel and praised Harman -- the new Fort Worth city manager is finding that Texas can be a lonely place to sort out new problems, particularly when a blunt political style is construed as "pushy" in the slower-paced city.
"Harman's got to understand that this here is Texas," said City Councilman Louis Zapata
Before he even tried out his new office chair, Harman had to deal with charges that he was selected for the $100,000-a-year job because the No. 2 candidate was black and the city, particularly the business community, was not ready for a black city manager.
Then, Harman's brash manner and blunt cartoon drawings, which many in the Washington area had liked, flopped in this city like a comedian on an off night.
Selected by the Fort Worth City Council on a bitterly divided 5-to-4 vote, Harman knew from the beginning that most of his top staff members had supported Assistant Fort Worth City Manager Vernell Sturns for the job.
Sturns has lived in the city for 30 years and is considered a self-made man.
Zapata, a four-term Hispanic council member, predicted "a tough time" ahead for Harman: "The blacks, the minorities and the poor know he's the choice of the downtown big-business crowd. They're not going to forget that, because of him, Vernell didn't get the job."
"There's a lot of skepticism about how well he'll do," said Bert C. Williams, a life insurance agent and a three-term black council member who agrees that race influenced Harman's selection.
"But what I'm worried about now is the morale of the staff," Williams continued. "They don't seem willing to give their all like they did for [Bob] Herchert [Harman's predecessor]. . . . They're used to a low-key, low-profile man who lets them have the glory. Harman's flashy. He's not the kind to mingle in the background."
Harman, whose schedule is already filled with meetings and appointments through July 1, barrels through City Hall at a half-walk, half-run pace. Staff members say that in order to have a word with him, they must run alongside.
"We are a little apprehensive," said Assistant City Manager Ruth Ann McKinney, who works with Harman on budget and financial matters. "There has been a lot of stress during the transition."
Still, City Council member Kathy Wetherby says she and the business community are impressed with Harman. Soon, she believes, others will be, too. "When Bob [Herchert] left, people cried and cried and cried . . . . He was very reserved . . . . It's just going to take people a while to get used to Harman's friendly, outgoing style."
One staff member recalled a stunned City Council when one member sauntered into a meeting late and Harman pointedly looked at his watch and said, "Glad you could make it." The staff member said, "We just don't say things like that here."
Assistant City Manager McKinney said one thing that disturbed her about Harman was his cartoons, some of which raise concerns that Harman may not be sensitive to the role of women in government. One showed a female firefighter sliding down a pole into the arms of a male fightfighter who had a salacious look on his face.
Harman defends his cartoons, saying they were published almost a decade ago, and that his track record of having three female assistant city managers in Alexandria is more telling than a few humorous drawings.
"It takes adjusting," said Harman. "Everything is so completely different." What would be a routine $10,000 expenditure in Alexandria to print copies of the city's annual report, he said, would be met with opposition in Fort Worth, where, although there is a rich flow of bankers' money, there is also a saying that "you squeeze a nickel until the Indian is riding the buffalo."
With lots of oil, aviation and defense contractor money flowing around Fort Worth, Harman is already moving to renovate the historic stockyards along the Chisholm trail and the saloons where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid once caroused.
But while Bob Bass, of the billionaire Fort Worth oil family, said he is excited about what Harman could do for the preservation of the city's culture, those restoration plans draw instant opposition from minority and community leaders, who, according to the 1980 census, represent 35 percent of the population.
"We have people sleeping on the streets," said Zapata, "and I can tell you that they don't spend their days looking at paintings hanging on museum walls." Williams estimates that as many as one-quarter of the people of Fort Worth, or more than 100,000 persons, fall below the federally defined poverty level.
And if that is not trouble enough, on Tuesday the University of Texas at Arlington released a comprehensive report that listed Fort Worth as the most dangerous city in Texas. Police Chief H.F. Hopkins said crime is now the No. 1 concern of the residents, largely because violent crime has jumped 13 percent this year. And, since September, five young females have been slain in the southwest side of the city.
Toward the end of six weeks of 12-hour days, Harman seemed startled by the question a Fort Worth education spokeswoman asked him at a dinner for city leaders: "Doug, what made you come here from such a sophisticated place like Alexandria?"
Harman put down his fork. "Well," he said, "I had been in there for nine years . . . . There are a lot of narrow issues you have to spend time on there. Here, there's challenge."