As a lifelong resident of coastal Southeast Texas who has weathered a few storms of the political and meteorological kinds, Shawn Oubre says he’s excited to be moving inland for a new job as city manager of Woodway.
Oubre, 57, who has served as Orange city manager for the past 13 years, expects to start the Woodway job in about six weeks. Woodway City Council members on Friday selected the 57-year-old Oubre over two other finalists for the job, and contract negotiations are underway.
“I am very excited. I hear you don’t have hurricanes up there,” Oubre said Monday. Oubre was at the helm of the city of Orange a year ago, when Hurricane Harvey battered the Texas coast, and Woodway officials cited that leadership in hiring him.
“About a third of the city of Orange received damage from Harvey,” Oubre said. “It was anywhere from water seepage to 4 or 5 feet deep in some homes. But the thing about it is, if you get an inch or 4 feet of water, it is all the same. Everything needs to go. We have had our share of disasters, and we feel for the people on the East Coast who are about to get this one. It is a difficult thing to go through and then it takes several years to recover as a citizen and as a community. They take their tolls.”
Woodway Council members interviewed three finalists last week and selected Oubre over Bob Hart, city manager of Corinth in Denton County; and David Harris, city administrator of Balcones Heights in Bexar County.
Woodway Mayor Bob Howard said council members liked Oubre’s longevity in Orange County, his willingness to commit long-term to Woodway, his experience in crisis management and his educational and law enforcement backgrounds.
“We were impressed with his ability to plan and prepare for worst-case scenarios, such as the hurricanes down there, his resolve in the job and his commitment and his ability to move through some challenging issues,” Howard said.
Oubre, a Port Arthur native, has been city manager in Orange since February 2005 and served as police chief, acting city manager and city manager in Vidor from 2002 to 2005. Before that, he was a police officer in Groves and worked as an investigator for the Provost Umphrey Law Firm.
He also is an adjunct instructor at Lamar State College in Orange and is a former adjunct instructor at Lamar University in Beaumont. Oubre has a doctorate in public policy and administration from Walden University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a master of public administration and a bachelor’s degree from Lamar University.
“I like the challenges and the opportunities in the community,” Oubre said of Woodway. “We like the size of the community, the location of the community and also the potential to make Woodway our permanent home.”
Barring any contract snares, Oubre will replace Yost Zakhary, who resigned in April after working his way up over 39 years in Woodway from public safety dispatcher to police officer, then public safety director and city manager. Zakhary’s resignation came after the city conducted an internal investigation into an employee’s complaints that Zakhary sexually harassed her and fostered a hostile work environment.
The city settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with the woman in July for $50,000.
John Hatchel, a former Waco assistant city manager who has served as interim city manager since Zakhary’s resignation, said city staff members who took Oubre on a tour of facilities Friday were “real impressed with him.”
“I also was very impressed with him,” Hatchel said. “He is quiet, but he is very knowledgeable.”
Howard said the council was impressed with how Oubre led the city through Harvey-related flooding, but also how he navigated other non-weather-related storms. Oubre finessed his way — without getting the city sued — through challenges by an atheist group to an Orange City Hall Nativity scene in 2015, as well as protests over a controversial Confederate memorial built on private land by the Sons of the Confederacy.
“He had to handle some controversial issues of the day and he moved through them while being attacked on both sides,” Howard said. “When you get it from both sides, that’s a lot to stand up to.”
Oubre has been married 38 years to his wife, Roxanne. They have two grown children, two grandchildren and one on the way. He said he is a huge baseball fan who makes travel plans around attending games. He said he looks forward to attending Baylor University games.
Ourbe said he’s not planning to make sweeping changes at Woodway.
“I want to be a good listener and see what is going on and evaluate what could possibly be changed,” he said. “But I am not coming in and immediately making changes. I have nothing on the radar. It will be a discussion with the council. I see them as a group of unity, and I see a group that has a vision of where they want Woodway to go. That is what made me excited, was their vision and the direction they want to go with Woodway.”