City Manager of Gonzales, Texas
Early in my career in municipal government the importance of planning for
the unexpected was hammered home one warm and bright February afternoon.
e natural gas company that serviced our area was required by the Texas Railroad
Commission to remove and replace all of the yellow poly pipeline they had laid
in the 1970s. Yellow poly was everywhere. Instead of digging and removing the
pipe they decided to bore underground in order to be able to pull the replacement
pipe into place.
Sitting in my oﬃce thinking all was right with the world, I received the call.
It was from Martha, who served as our utility clerk and telephone receptionist.
“Allen, I just got a strange call from a lady. She said she turned on her gas range
and there was water coming out.” I knew that Martha knew there was condensa-
tion in the gas lines from time to time so I asked, “Did you tell her it might be
condensation in the lines?” To which I nearly choked on the response I was given,
“Yes sir, but she has about 5 gallons of condensation on the ﬂoor and it’s still com-
e gas company had bored into a water line. e water at 65 psi followed the
path of least resistance and inﬁltrated their 15 psi intermediate gas line. Water
quickly began to ﬁll the gas line and enter their distribution system. From the time
of the ﬁrst report, it took the gas company more than 2 hours to ﬁnd the source of
the water. e following 2 weeks, which included the coldest cold snap in years,
left a large majority of our small community with no heat. e emergency response
on the part of the gas company started out ﬁne but ended up disorganized. After
a few days they began digging without regard to other underground utilities and
caused problems for the city’s understaﬀed water department by ripping water lines
out of the streets. After I pleaded with them to stop their random digging and ulti-
mately threatened one of their vice presidents with, “If you rip out another one of
my water lines you and I will have to ﬁx it and I don’t know how,” they reassessed
xx ◾ Foreword
their approach and took time to plan a strategy that was acceptable to the city. is
calamity taught me the necessity of planning for the unexpected.
Having to learn this lesson on the ﬂy showed me that I hadn’t served my citizens
very well. I learned I should have been ready. From that day forward I said I would
never be caught unprepared.
Professors Nick Valcik and Paul Tracy have assembled the case studies in this
book to help current and future governmental managers recognize the importance
of getting ready for what the next telephone call might bring. e reader takes
away an appreciation for the mindset of many of those who worked through each
scenario in the book. e reader understands, in most cases, why they did what
they did. Good decisions and bad decisions, you get a good understanding for the
value to plan for the unexpected. e reader will also be able to assess the actions
of governments and their oﬃcials after the fact. Written without judgment, this
compilation allows readers to put themselves in the place of these oﬃcials. Valcik
and Tracy show the student and the government oﬃcial alike that critical proper
planning can’t stop unexpected events, but that you can be prepared.
You also get an appreciation for the fact that some events cascade beyond all
planning. You will see that some events appear to present one set of issues but evolve
into situations beyond expectations. e reader sees that all events have a life of
their own and every decision made will impact the outcome positively or negatively.
In government service anything can and will happen. Valcik and Tracy have
selected a wide variety of case studies to help the reader prepare for that phone call
when you least expect it. Now if you will excuse me, I have to catch my phone,