Remembering Frank Simpson

8697995549_dce65549df_b[1]EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog assembles the many comments we received this week about our late city manager, Frank Simpson. While some of these folks knew Frank for many years and others for a relatively short time, it’s obvious that he had a positive impact on a lot of people in his 49 years. These tributes offer authentic insight into who Frank was and why he will be missed by so many. At the end of the blog, you’ll find links to some of the media stories that looked at Frank’s life and legacy. We’ll add other comments are we receive them.

David Neeley, Former College Station City Manager

“I had the privilege of working with Frank in the Houston area were we both served as city managers for area suburbs. As a colleague, I learned that Frank would do anything for you and was never too busy to take a phone call. I could always reach him when I needed to run an idea or a problem by someone, and he was never shy about giving me his opinion. After coming to College Station as deputy city manager in 2008, I thought I would finish out my career in that position. Glenn Brown and I seemed to be on the same retirement tract, but he surprised me by retiring early. Frank and I were both candidates to fill the vacant position. As I was here working in College Station and Frank was an out-of-town candidate, he called me periodically to see what I knew about the interview process, timing, etc. One day while we were talking, he told me that coming back to College Station was his dream, and if I got the job, he would be proud to work for me as my replacement in the deputy city manager position. I told him the same — if he got the job, I would be happy working for him as deputy city manager. We had developed mutual respect and admiration for each other and were each comfortable working for the other. 

“I was fortunate to get the job, and my first call was to Frank to see if he was still interested in the deputy position. Of course, he was excited about coming back to College Station and the rest is history. I sometimes wonder how different it may have been if Frank had been selected city manager instead of me. Frank was just as qualified for the job as me, but I had the advantage of already being in the organization. I was proud to serve as city manager and to have two very qualified assistants in Frank and Kathy Merrill. My wish would have been that Frank could have served in his dream job a little longer. We will all miss his smile, laughter and friendship.  I surely will.”

Nick Finan, City Secretary, Texas City

“Frank Simpson came to me when I was in La Marque and he had recently graduated from Texas A&M with his masters. He wasn’t shy in telling me that he was the best candidate for the job (and he knew at least one of the other candidates).  And I will admit, it turned out that he was the best for the job. He laughed all the time and could make you laugh.  He could be so disarming in tense situations. Even though I hired him and he would call from time to time for advice as he moved on to other cities, I learned from him and always felt that I could go to work for him. He was very insightful and had a keen sense of doing what is right and making good decisions. We would always say how he owed me a beer and we would try to hook up for some conversation and a drink at various conferences or meetings.  But somehow, after we would get together and talk, I would end up paying, and he would say he’d get it the next time. I don’t know if he ever paid for a beer. But it didn’t matter, it would be worth it just to talk and get caught up on each other’s lives. He was that personable and enjoyable to be around.

“He loved his family. He cared for his dad and would speak of him and worried about him after his mother passed away. He enjoyed family get-togethers in Groveton and felt they were too few and too far between. He would always talk about his sons and daughter, and Kelly. He always talked about making this move or that move; doing what was best for them, not necessarily what would be easier. Getting the opportunity to move to College Station was not just his dream, but his family’s dream. He was finally living the dream. I was so excited and happy for him and Kelly. Great people, good hearts, loving, respectful and both service oriented. In a world where there is so much of “me first” or “what can I get out of it,” they are truly service-to-others first. I am going to miss him, his humor and his laughter. And he still owes me a beer.”

R.B. Alley, College Station Fire Chief

“It was truly an honor to have the opportunity to work with Frank Simpson. He was a dedicated public servant who loved his job as city manager. He truly loved the City of College Station and he greatly loved Texas A&M University.  I will miss Frank and his very positive attitude, and the smile that he shared and demonstrated every day. He enjoyed life and he was a dedicated husband, son and father. Frank made a difference every day.”

Scott Elmer, Director of Public Works, Missouri City

“It is hard to do justice to Frank.  He started out as my boss, he became my mentor and then my friend.  Frank had an excellent ability to navigate through the boundaries between the politics and the practicalities of running a city.  He was one of the best leaders I have seen and an outstanding city manager and also one of the most modest people I have met.  He never took the limelight.  A lot of projects were successful through his hard work and knowledge of people, however, you will rarely see him in the ribbon cutting photos because he recognized his role and was content with others getting the credit.  Frank recognized potential and talent among his co-workers, and nurtured and guided it to development.  He was a great family man and took tremendous pride in their accomplishments.  I am extremely proud to be considered among his friends and I will greatly miss him.”

Jeff Kersten, Executive Director/Fiscal Services, City of College Station

“Frank and I went to graduate school at the same time in the late 1980s and worked at the City of College Station at the same time through the early 1990s. We both received undergraduate degrees in Political Science and graduate degrees in Public Administration. Frank left College Station to begin a career in city management and I stayed here and continued my career at the City of College Station. I was really pleased when I heard Frank was going to come back to College Station a few years ago as deputy city manager. I knew he would be a good fit for the organization. I was also pleased when he was named city manager and felt good things were ahead. He said this is where he wanted to end his career. His personality, demeanor and professionalism were a great fit for this organization. Frank could get things done in a positive way and he cared about people in a genuine way. It was a shock to hear about his death. It was so unexpected and a tragedy for his family, friends and colleagues. It is yet another reminder that we really are not promised any tomorrows and should live our lives to the fullest everyday in all we do. I will miss Frank and will honor his memory and example by being the best public servant I can be.”   

Hugh Walker, Deputy City Manager, City of Bryan

“Frank had a reputation in the city management profession of being a model leader who carefully and thoughtfully considered options. Once a decision was made, Frank was known to provide clear direction. He was a fair and compassionate individual who believed in doing the right thing. At networking sessions and other professional events, when Frank spoke, people listened. I have known Frank for almost 21 years, and have admired the respect and trust his peers demonstrated towards him; however, he earned this respect and trust based on action and commitment to others, his community, and the profession. Additionally, Frank enjoyed talking about his family and he was obviously extremely proud of his children. The city management profession, the Bryan College Station community, and the City of College Station has lost a tremendous leader who was ethical, fair, compassionate, and dedicated. A leader who had proven himself in each community he managed and one who was just beginning to display his visionary leadership abilities in his latest career opportunity. Frank Simpson will be missed.”

Allen Owen, Missouri City Mayor

“I had the pleasure of working with Frank as the city manager of Missouri City during seven of my years as mayor. His dedication to his family and to his job was an example of his life. He was a caring person that always had a smile on his face and a laugh in his heart. He had always told me that he wanted to end his career in College Station where it began and where he was a dedicated and loyal Aggie. Well, he got that wish, but it ended way to soon. May God be with Kelly and the family during this terrible time in their young lives. He will be missed by many.” 

Jay Socol, Public Communications Director, City of College Station

“I wish I’d met Frank when I first entered the world of city government 13 years ago, because I’m confident I’d be a more effective leader and a better man. During Frank’s relatively short time with the City of College Station, I learned plenty from him. And while I may not be able to forever recall the knowledge and advice he shared, I’ll certainly have no trouble remembering the things that seemed to come to him so naturally — a broad smile and kid-like laugh; a curious and fun-loving spirit; a calming presence without a trace of panic or fluster; a forgiving nature; a quick learner who could possess deep understanding of an issue in relatively short order; a shrewd negotiator; someone who understood layers of politics at a variety of levels; a city manager who knew how to take care of his city council and staff; and a man who made time for his family and spoke of them often. I already miss that guy.”

Sherry Mashburn, College Station City Secretary

“Frank Simpson was a true public servant and a fine gentleman. Frank left a legacy of leadership that is matched by few and surpassed by none. His humor, his compassion for everyone around him — and his vision — will be sorely missed here in College Station. Our lives were forever changed by his impact on our lives.”

Dave Ruesink, Former College Station City Councilmember

“When Frank Simpson arrived here two years ago as the assistant city manager, I was impressed with his quiet manner of conducting the city business.  While he was not very vocal, he was certainly thoughtful and thorough with his deliberations.  He was the type of person that one could feel comfortable to drop by his office anytime, and he’d make you feel like he interested in nothing else but you.  He did not give you the feeling that he had lots of other issues on his mind.  From the time that David Neeley announced his intention to retire from the city manager position, I felt comfortable with the prospect of Frank becoming his replacement.  Even though I retired from the council prior to his appointment, I was pleased with council’s decision to name Frank as our city manager.”

Ben Roper, Director of Information Technology, City of College Station

“Frank always had a smile on his face. He was decisive and knew where he wanted to take the city, but was always open to other ideas. He made everyone feel like they were important to the team.”

Timothy Crabb,  Electric Utility Director, City of College Station

“When Frank came to College Station, his background in utilities did not include electric.  I think he always got a chuckle about how anytime we mentioned anything about outages, we would “knock on wood”.   At one meeting downtown, it was mentioned how we had not had anything major happen for quite some time.  That afternoon, we had a feeder lock out, losing power to about a thousand customers until we could get the power restored.  After that, I noticed that Frank became more wary about talking about how good things were going, and sometimes he would even “knock on wood” when the subject came up!”

Katy-Marie Lyles, Former College Station City Councilmember

“Frank was always a great calming effect amongst the chaos of city business. He never seemed to really let things bother him, he just simply handled them. His demeanor was calming and friendly. He could get the job done but didn’t pose a threat in doing so; his likeability made him a natural ally to all who met him. Being a strong personality, I’m often drawn to very strong personalities in leaders. His style of leadership didn’t exhibit the need to be the one to get the credit even though he was the one getting the work done. I remember coming into his office, guns blazing and adamant about an issue, and I don’t think he realized how his listening was so powerful. I always felt he had a very good gift of listening. He was quick to listen and not speak. 

“I always enjoyed his happy smile and sense of humor. He was by no means an extrovert but was always up for having fun and joining the group. I think his sense of humor made him a natural fit for the city manager’s office. I’ll always remember his great smile. No matter how stressful things were, he would give a smile and talk. While many people can do this, you can often still see the stress in their eyes and know a lot is on their mind, but I always felt Frank was able to take the stress in stride, or at least he really seemed to.”

Karl Mooney, College Station Mayor Pro Tem

“Frank came to College Station and I was elected to the city council about the same time. That gave us the opportunity to bond a little since we were walking the same halls and offices together for the first time. It was immediately apparent that Frank loved what he was doing, loved College Station and loved serving the people of the community. Every day, we relied on and were reassured by his knowledge, experience and passion. Frank also had a gift of knowing how to alleviate tension when he knew a lighter attitude was needed to get the job done. He could inject humor into some of the most contentious proceedings and lead all parties to a consensus. There were numerous times when I turned to Frank during lunch at Blue Baker or just before a council meeting to tap into his wisdom and his guidance. Knowing that resource isn’t going to be available makes his passing all the harder.” 

John Nichols, College Station City Councilmember

“As one of the newest members of the council, my perspective is influenced as much by the confidence and deep respect shown by others in reference to Frank and his work as it is by my own observations.  In meetings with Frank, he was always an engaged listener, and that’s not easy with several council members talking at the same time. I enjoyed watching his eyes as he was listening and when he was deciding to say something that would answer a question or help keep the group on task. His alertness and engaging personality was always at the forefront in our individual discussions and interactions in meetings. Good humor coupled with deep professional knowledge was a hallmark of Frank’s service to the city and the community he cared so much for. I’m sad that I will not have the chance to learn more about the workings of municipal government from Frank.  I know he would have been a good teacher. He and his family will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers from a long time to come.” 

Blanche Brick, College Station City Councilmember

“Frank Simpson was the kind of man that has defined American manhood and made this nation great.  He was a man who recognized that this life had a spiritual dimension that gave meaning to all he did. He cared deeply about his family and did all he could to make the move to College Station one that worked for his children and his wife. He cared deeply about being an Aggie with all that term represents in its best interpretation, meaning that he wanted to serve rather than be served. He cared deeply about his co-workers and sought to make their jobs meaningful and productive. He cared deeply about the City of College Station and wanted to use his talents to guarantee the growth we are experiencing would be the best it could be. I’m proud to say that Frank Simpson was my friend and the kind of man who lived a life that young men should seek to follow as they begin their own families and careers, and try to hold up the standard of manhood that is so necessary in our world today.” 

James Benham, College Station City Councilmember

“Frank was an incredible man and a great person to work with. I only got five months to work with him but thoroughly enjoyed them all. He really appreciated people and had the ability to really listen and take action — he was definitively a “doer.” His staff loved working with and for him. I remember when we publicly announced his transition to permanent city manager the staff erupted into applause — not because they were obligated to but because they were truly excited to have him as their leader. People like Frank are irreplaceable and his loss will be felt for a long time in city hall.” 

Jason Stuebe, Assistant to the City Manager, City of College Station

“In preparing for his last council meeting, it was clear that one of the consent items was going to be pulled for further discussion.  I asked if he would like to handle it, and he said “Naw, you can do it.”  I quickly responded “but, I hardly know anything about it.”  To which he stated, ever so coolly, “Well, that’s more than I know about it – you’ll be fine.”  Frank drew his ability to effectively lead an organization by simply being one of us.  Unassuming, never dominating, never pretentious  – but always giving everyone a chance to succeed. Frank was Frank. 

“Frank may have only been with the city for a little under two years, and may have only been city manager for a couple of months, but he had a vision and goals for this city and this organization that he loved so very much.  College Station as an organization and as a community is much better for Frank having been with us — and is much poorer now that he’s gone.   However, as we begin our “new normal,” it’s his vision and plans that I would hope drive each and every employee to continue the mission of making this place one of the best.” 

Colin Killian, Communications/Marketing Specialist, City of College Station

“I admired the genuine way Frank interacted with all the employees every day, regardless of whether it was a department head or a worker in the field. In fact, genuine might be the best word to describe him. He was the consummate professional but felt comfortable enough in his own skin to enjoy a good laugh or practical joke. College Station is certainly richer for the short time he was with us. He truly cared about the people around him and had tremendous love and affection for Texas A&M and College Station. I know I’ll miss talking to him about Aggie sports.”

Randall Heye, Economic Development Analyst, City of College Station

“One of my favorite memories of Frank came last year during the annual Texas City Management Association conference. It happened to be at the same time and location as the annual Texas City Attorneys Association conference. Frank had learned of a reception being held for TCAA members and thought it would be fun to show up uninvited. As Frank, Joey Dunn, Jason Stuebe, and myself drove to the event we began to wonder: if we would get in, would we be found out? What do city attorneys talk about? Do they even know how to have fun? To my relief, we walked in and were surrounded by surprised city attorneys from across the state wanting to catch up with Frank. It confirmed what I had suspected since starting to work with him one year earlier; Frank loved being around everyone and everyone loved being around Frank.”

Ed Spillane, College Station Municipal Court Judge

“Though I only knew him for a brief time, every time I met Frank I was impressed with his energy and enthusiasm for the city and those who live in and work for College Station. He didn’t just attend our employee recognition events, he displayed his sincere appreciation for our efforts. He communicated to me his interest in our court and his interest and enthusiasm was genuinely appreciated.  I know from those I meet from Missouri City’s court that they share the same feelings for Frank while he was there.  He will truly be missed.”  

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