Terrell Hills Assistant City Manager Is Focused on Work and Family
As an athlete, a mom, as Terrell Hills’ Assistant City Manager, Michelle Partain is focused. Perhaps growing up as an athlete taught her to set and manage her priorities.
Partain was born on September 29, 1983 in San Antonio. She graduated from Madison High School in 2002, where she was an all-star soccer player. From Madison High, Partain went on to the University of North Texas (UNT), in Denton, where she’d been recruited to play soccer on the Mean Green’s highly ranked soccer team. But her soccer career was cut short after she underwent two ankle reconstructions.
She told her coach she could not continue playing at the same level she’d enjoyed before the surgeries. So, she switched to intramural soccer, volleyball, and other sports.
Partain graduated from UNT in 2006 with a degree was in criminal justice.
“I was inspired to go down a law enforcement path. My first job out of college was with the Denton County Sheriff’s Office, as a detention officer. But it was so monotonous, so repetitive every day. Occasionally you’d have something exciting. But really, you did the same thing every day.” She quickly discovered it wasn’t for her.
She moved on to work for Child Protective Services as an investigator. “I’m glad I wasn’t a parent back then, because I think I would have taken it a lot worse than I did.”
From CPS, she moved to then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office, filing child support cases and going to court. In 2009, her daughter Aubrey was born. She and Aubrey moved to East Texas, where Partain worked in a community-based program helping at-risk youth. “I did that for a few years before I moved back to San Antonio.”
She missed her hometown. “I had no idea what I would do, but I wanted to be home.”
As luck would have it, she was having lunch at a Chick-fil-A at The Forum one day. “Now Assistant Chief Baham and a former patrol officer were in the restaurant too. I’m sitting there and thinking Terrell Hills, where is that? How did I grow up in San Antonio with no clue where Terrell Hills was?” She Googled Terrell Hills and saw that the city was looking for a Court Clerk. She applied and got the job. It was December 2012. “And six and a half years later, here I am.” She later thanked Baham for being at Chick-fil-A that day.
Partain worked hard, took on any jobs thrown at her. She was noticed by the higher-ups. On January 1, 2018, she was named Terrell Hills new assistant city manager.
When asked what she does, her eyes sparkle, her face wrinkled up, and she laughs and says, “I’m the one office that doesn’t have a TV, because this is the office where the work takes place.” She quickly added, “Assistant Fire Chief Justin Seibert doesn’t have a TV either.” “We’re a small staff, so we wear a lot of hats.” Partain’s responsibilities include Human Resources, payroll, worker’s compensation, paying the city’s bills, meeting-prep for Board of Adjustment, Planning, and Zoning, budget, and more. The Bottom line is, Partain says, “I work on everything except fighting fires and arresting people.”
She enjoys her job, noting, “It’s not monotonous or boring like it was in the Denton County Sheriff’s office. Every day there’s something new and fun. My city manager (Greg Whitlock) and police chief (William Foley) love to laugh. They’re fun to work with.”
One of the things she likes most about her job is working with Terrell Hills residents. “They like to bring good things and bad things to our attention,” Partain says. “And they’re not shy about talking with us. Residents will tell us about potholes and roads needing attention. I love our residents. “We bend over backward here to help them. For example, our public service employees will go into people’s back yards to retrieve their trash cans. We want this to be a place where people are happy to live because that makes us happy to work here. We try to provide the best customer service that we can.”
Partain says she no longer thinks of going into law enforcement. “I want to be able to go home every day to my child. I’m not into taking risks, even though I am into risk and aggressive things.” Partain flashes another big smile and adds, “Aubrey has softened me up, I guess.” She did think of other career options along the way, like coaching. “But I didn’t want to teach. Ideally, if I could just win the lottery, I’d be a beach bum! That would be perfect, but it’s not realistic.”
She frequently takes her daughter to Port Aransas to go to the beach. “But most often we stay in Rockport because we love to fish. And relax. “Before the hurricane, we were fishing out on a very long pier. I had a trout on my line which I was trying to reel in. Along came a dolphin and Aubrey kept yelling at me to hurry, hurry to bring it in. Which I was able to do. A man fishing near us wasn’t so lucky. That dolphin nailed his fish. It even pulled his entire fishing rig into the water.”
Partain has three older sisters. Just girls. “My poor father,” she laughs.
For now, she is content to do her job and spend as much time as she can with Aubrey. It’s that work-life balance that drives her. And for now, until Aubrey is on her own, it’s Partain’s primary focus. She’s a mom first and Terrill Hills’ Assistant City Manager second.
And, by every measure, she’s great at both jobs.
BY RON AARON EISENBERG