PHARR, RGV – Pharr City Commission is nominating its city manager, Juan G. Guerra, for a Strategic Leadership and Governance Award from the International City/County Management Association.
Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez said Guerra is deserving of the award for championing the Pharr P.R.I.D.E. program. The program aims to “increase efficiency and productivity, improve employee morale, and elevate the ethical expectations of city staff.”
According to city leadership, prior to Guerra’s appointment as city manager, the workplace culture that existed in Pharr included “undisciplined spending, unprofessional ethics, distrust between staff and management, silos created at every department, questionable integrity when communicating with residents, and a failure to adhere to sound management principles expected by those in leadership positions.”
Hernandez said that in May 2015, Pharr residents demanded change and elected a new mayor and city commissioners. Soon after, Guerra was promoted to city manager.
“During a time of needed change, Juan stepped up and delivered in many facets, the most notable one was the change in Pharr’s culture through progressive leadership steps summarized as the Pharr P.R.I.D.E Program,” Hernandez said.
Guerra was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and his family moved to the Rio Grande Valley during his childhood. After graduating from high school, Guerra joined the U.S. Marine Corps. His biography reads:
“After being honorably discharged, Guerra’s focus and discipline transitioned to the classroom where he earned a Bachelor and Master degree in Business Administration and a Certified Public Accountant license, among others. Guerra began his tenure in Pharr as Finance Director, and after leading Pharr away from major fiscal problems, was promoted to Chief Financial Officer. All of this prepared Guerra for the major challenge of stepping up and leading the charge under the new administration’s directive to change the culture in Pharr. Having been in Pharr since 2007, he was aware of the improvements needed, and through his military training, he had gained the leadership abilities to get the job done. By developing and implementing the following three major tasks, the culture in Pharr would be positively affected and changed.”
Hernandez said the Pharr P.R.I.D.E. program, developed by Guerra, consists of the adoption of leadership traits expected of all employees. “These traits are: Professionalism in work productivity and appearance; Respect for self, co-workers, employees and citizens; Integrity in work and in life; Discipline in what you do; and Ethical adherence to moral, professional, and legal standards. The Pharr P.R.I.D.E. program is supported in every activity, signifying the importance placed on the leadership traits that are constantly being developed and augmented.”
Hernandez said Guerra has also taken the initiative to raise the standard expected from employees regarding workplace productivity, and implemented programs focused on professional growth, leadership training, team-building, diversity, and employee recognition. “Through monthly team-building activities hosted by peers for all departments, leadership training programs, and fun activities for employees and families, Guerra has focused on improving the quality of the workplace environment and elevated the level of expectation so that employees are delivering city services in a productive and efficient manner,” a City of Pharr news release states.
Guerra said another of his goals has been to improve and streamline communications between city staff and city leadership, so that employees felt their needs were heard and addressed. To this end he implemented suggestion boxes throughout the city, conducted employee evaluations on the Mayor, City Commission and City Manager, and created the Pharr Fraud Reporting Program to identify wrong, unethical, and/or criminal operations taking place within Pharr. Guerra said these measures aim to promote employee buy-in on the new programs in place and encourage employee participation and commitment to the programs.
The mayor and the city commissioners did well in the employee evaluations.
“The role of the City Manager is to develop a team to implement the policies of the elected officials, and having a great team is key to getting things done,” said Guerra. “I thank the City leaders for this nomination, and I am proud of how Pharr’s culture has dramatically changed and is continually developing into the professional and efficient workforce that the residents of Pharr expect and deserve.”