Update: Former interim city manager Theresa O’Donnell to become Dallas’ first chief resilience officer

Update: Theresa O’Donnell will be the city’s first chief resilient officer. She is proposed as the CRO in the city’s application sent to the Rockefeller Foundation, and city spokesperson Sana Syed confirms her new title. O’Donnell is currently in Singapore, where the 100 Resilient Cities announcement was made today.

Until recently O’Donnell was an interim assistant manager, following a lengthy stint as Director of Sustainable Development and Construction. Since August she’s been Dallas’ chief planning officer in the newly created Department of Planning and Neighborhood Vitality. So, this move kind of makes sense — and, the city no longer has to pay her salary.

Theresa O’Donnell

Original item posted at 9:10 a.m.: In Singapore today the Rockefeller Foundation added 35 cities to its burgeoning list of 100 Resilient Cities, and Dallas is among them — as are Barcelona, Spain; Juarez, Mexico; London, England; Paris and Tulsa. The chosen ones are on the list, says the New York-based foundation pouring $100 million into the now-year-old initiative, because they’re “cities who have demonstrated a commitment to building their own capacities to navigate the shocks and stresses of an increasingly complex 21st Century.”

Which sounds impressive. Very impressive. But … but … but what does it actually mean?

Well, for starters, says the foundation, Dallas City Hall will be able to hire a chief resilience officer, will report directly to the mayor and “lead the city’s resilience efforts.” If you’re wondering exactly what that means, you’re not alone: The foundation has twice posted about the duties of the CRO, most recently in September, when it ran an updated job description that more or less says, well, they do what politicians can’t (or won’t). From the Rockfellers: “This could include, for example, a flood barrier also serves as a bike path, promoting healthy citizens and cohesive communities.” (And you could put it right … here?)

Or, to put it another way, San Francisco’s CRO began his city hall career as the director of that city’s Earthquake Safety Implementation Program.

Hey, we may need one of those too.

Being on the list means the foundation will provide the “financial and logistical guidance for establishing [the] innovative new position in city government.”

John Kelly, the spokesman for the program, explains via email how this will be paid for: “Cities only receive direct funding to hire a CRO, and those costs vary from city to city. Therefore, it is important to note that cities will not be receiving a check for $1 million. However, the value of our core offerings will likely far exceed $1 million for each city.”

According to the foundation, making the cut was no easy feat: 350 applicants vied for a spot on the list, and those who made it “demonstrate[d] a unique vision for resilience, a long-term commitment to cutting across silos of government and sectors of society, a special attention to the needs of the poor and vulnerable. Network cities serve as a model for other global cities that seek to build their own resilience.”

We’ve asked Dallas City Hall for a copy of the city’s application. We’ll post if and when it arrives. Till then, all we have is this quote from Mayor Mike Rawlings: ““I’m proud to accept this honor on behalf of the City of Dallas. As a winner of the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, we are now part of a network of urban centers that are better prepared to respond to 21st century challenges.”


This post was written by Robert Wilonsky and shared with permission from The Dallas Morning News.