Be adaptable to change and to be conscious of changing landscapes.
Torry Edwards was born in Dallas, TX. He attended the University of New Mexico on a football scholarship and received his BA in criminal justice with a minor in government. He completed his master’s, as well as began his PhD in public affairs with a concentration in economics and public administration from the University of Texas, he did not complete his PhD.
Edwards’ first city job introduction into the city government was as a mental health counselor at the downtown city jail in Albuquerque, NM. A year later, he returned to Dallas to work for Dallas County government as a substance abuse counselor, and then for the United Way as a community counselor. In 1994, during his last semester in his masters’ program, he did an internship for the Dallas city manager’s office. At the end of his internship, the chief executive officer extended a job offer as his assistant in the city manager’s office. This began Edwards’ career path in city management.
In 1998, Edwards was hired as a government instructor at Dallas County Community College District. The total tenure with the City of Terrell equated to a total of 17 years. Initially beginning as an assistant city manager in 2002 and later being appointed as the Chief Executive Officer & City Manager in 2007.
Torry Edwards retired from the city of Terrell in 2019. He continues to work as a professor at Dallas County Community College District, where he teaches Texas government and federal government.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
It’s from a dedicated background of public service. I’ve been exposed to career paths and public service since my undergraduate years at the University of New Mexico. I gravitated toward a career path in public service and I made that commitment to serve. I want to stress that I served in two capacities, one of which as a practitioner, a city manager, known as a chief executive officer of a municipal corporation. I’ve dedicated my life to the career path of city management. I have a unique background because I have served in the city manager’s office for the city of Dallas, TX, I’ve also worked for Albuquerque, NM, and even growing rural regional economies in the city of Terrell, TX. My entire career has been dedicated to growing the economy of Northcentral Texas
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
In the day to day operations of running a city, every two days are different. To make it productive, you build and formulate high-performance teams to perform the highest level of city service delivery at the most cost-effective methods. So again, in city government, you are in the service providing business. You’re not in the profit motivation business; you’re providing services. In city government, my function is to manage the day to day operations of a city that’s ranging from water systems to quality water, to sanitary sewer systems and airport systems in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I also manage library systems, parks systems, police and fire systems, the full city service operations.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Through innovation and in an entrepreneurial way. Our local governments can think and behave in a very entrepreneurial way, and I believe in innovation and thinking in a strategic way that has provided economic benefits and growth to the cities in which I have served.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I will always be a student and a practitioner and executive in government. Some of the trends now that excite me are just monitoring any federal-level government discussions. I try to keep a watchful eye on public policy on a federal level. In terms of specific policies, environmental protection, agency and tax code discussions, as well as interest rate discussions on the federal reserve.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My resilience and ability to build high-performance teams. I value my employees. Your employees are your highest level of capital in an organization.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell a younger Torry Edwards to be adaptable to change and to be conscious of changing landscapes. I’d tell him that he needs to be strategically aware of changing work environments, both internally and externally, and position the entire organization to adapt to change to remain competitive in a changing landscape.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
When you facilitate high-level executive meetings, some executives approach problem-solving in a status quo way. However, they know that my style is that I’m going to challenge their thinking and stretch their thinking to bring out innovation and creativity. I’m just facilitating that discussion. Some of the executives around the table are unaware that I’m challenging their thinking. I’m guiding it in such a way where I take the discussion to a place where no one around the table thought it would go. This builds the organization, develops innovative thinking, and it also provides stronger governance.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Communicate. I believe, as a top city official, you can never over-communicate. You communicate in a very efficient and effective manner to deliver results.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
In government, you have to grow a sustainable government because some governments don’t operate in a fiscally sound and transparent way. As part of growing a governmental institution, you grow the finances, the fiscal controls, and you grow transparency in a government where everything is open and honest. You also enhance the ability to provide excellent service delivery to the citizens you serve. In government, we build fiscal systems. We build a greater service delivery to the citizens in a very efficient and effective manner. In a private sector, that may not be considered growth, but in a government service industry, that is considered growth.
It’s the people, the executive team, that help to grow all of that. In my background, you have to work in partnership with the state-level government and federal-level government agencies. It’s a three-level government partnership to accomplish a variety of goals and objectives effectively.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The mayor and council had a directive to establish stronger codes and to preserve aging core neighborhoods. We received quite a bit of pushback from members of the community, and that initiative failed. If we could do it all over again, we would have worked closely with all the stakeholders to try to gain greater buy-in from all partners and opinion leaders.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My business idea is to launch an ANTI-AGING bottled water; the key concept is it will not be packaged in a plastic bottle. Only I have the unique scientific methodology for packaging ANTI-AGING water for global distribution. No such product the world exists.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Best $100 I spent recently was half on me, to sustain Torry Edwards, and the other half on doing something for either family, friends or others.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I’m trying to become savvier with my social media because I grew up in the generation where, as an executive, you were heavily dependent on staff and clerical staff to provide various support for you. Now that I’ve retired from local government, I’m trying to educate myself on specific software such as Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, and social media platforms. I’m trying to grow in my level of competency to become a more effective leader, and that’s part of changing with the world of communication. Executives can become heavily dependent on staff, and I’m trying to reverse that to become more dependent on my own administrative and clerical capabilities.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend The Art of War by Sun Tzu because it’s an excellent business strategy guide.
What is your favorite quote?
“The football team is going to steamroll into the opposing team’s stadium, we’re going to steamroll all over their ass, and then we’re going to steamroll the hell out of there.” – Coach Frasier, Cisco College, TX.
- Be transparent with your clients.
- Be adaptable to change and to be conscious of changing landscapes.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.