City manager reflects on first year in office


It’s been a little more than a year since the Madisonville City Council announced that Camilla Viator would take the reins as city manager.

Viator, who previously served as the city’s director of marketing and tourism, prefers to stay behind the scenes and said she credits the city’s 40 employees for the successes that have occurred over the past year.

“I am proud of the city,” Viator said. “There are some awesome, talented employees who are very loyal. They’re good at what they do.”

The city manager said she’s been impressed by the employees’ expertise, calling up a recent photo on her smartphone of Public Works officials in a hole repairing a water line.

“It was 40 degrees on this day. They all know what to do, and they’re so talented,” she said. “It just makes you burst with pride.”

She’s also received a warm reception from the city council that hired her and other local partners including the county commission, Texas Department of Transportation and Economic Development Council.

“It is amazing how everyone comes together for the betterment of the city,” Viator said. “They are an amazing group. The City Council is great, very forward thinking. They give me lots of support and guidance.”

While there are always ongoing issues such as infrastructure needs, Viator wants to take a proactive approach and tries to keep an eye on what other cities are doing. She’s working with the Madison County Emergency Management Coordinator Shelly Butts to arrange for text message alerts to notify residents of things like gas leaks or water leaks.   

“Our school district is a shining star,” Viator said, noting that they have partnered on projects such as Marian Anderson Park. “They want to grow the community. One thing we’d like to do is extend a water line to keep the schools on a loop so if we have to shut down temporarily, we won’t cut off their water.”

During Viator’s tenure, the city completed a splash pad at Lake Madison and did extensive work on a lift station and relocated a sewer line. They accepted land from the Madisonville CISD school board for Marian Anderson Park and created a basketball pavilion there. Pending grant funding, plans call for a sand volleyball court, playground equipment, a cover for the basketball pavilion and restrooms at the park. A bicycle race, organized by the local branch of NAACP, is planned for April to raise funds for the park.  

The city also worked in conjunction with Madison County Economic Development Council on a terminal at the local airport. A $500,000 grant from TxDOT Aviation provided funds to rehabilitate a runway, and $100,000 was donated for a ramp.

“An airport is an economic development tool for any community,” Viator said, noting that a Tennessee-based skydiving business has plans to begin operating there. “My hope is that when we get fuel and have other businesses there, the next step will be to build hangars. It will be a source of revenue and a source of tourism. It’s a great development tool. We’re really fortunate that the aviation side of TxDOT has taken an interest in Madisonville.”

Madisonville’s location halfway between Dallas and Houston makes it an ideal spot for tourism, she added. And because of the high volume of out-of-towners who pass through Madison County, it was important to place two four-way stops on the town square, a feat that was accomplished last year. More enhancements are in the works, Viator said.

And while many people would have difficulty handing over their previous job, Viator said she’s enjoyed working with her successor, current Marketing and Tourism Director Laura Lawrenz.

“Laura is wonderful,” she said. “When you get fresh eyes you get fresh ideas. We did the Fourth of July event, and that was a home run. Tourism drives sales tax. It’s also part of economic development. If someone comes to Mushroom Festival, they’re going to stop somewhere else in town.”

Over the next few weeks, city staff will embark on strategic planning to project for the next year, five years, 10 years and 20 years.

“This year the budget is more of a focus on streets and one sewer line,” Viator said. “Next year we’ll flip it back. Last year we did three miles of road repair; this year we’re going to try to do to five miles.”

They’re also looking into adding office space – there’s not much of an interview room at the police department and space is limited for storage of things like meeting minutes and blueprints – but Viator said no one is complaining about the close quarters.

“I like the chatter because it lets you know you have happy employees,” she said, re-emphasizing that Madisonville’s successes should be credited to the city staff. “It’s not me. Every morning I wake up and make my to-do list and God just laughs at me. Every day has new challenges.”