My Search for Former City Manager Mary Suhm, Who's Apparently Lost in City Hall
Tuesday was a very strange day for me -- an experience I am sharing with you today (or inflicting on you, never quite sure) both here on the blog and also in a short film I made called "A Note for Mary." I made it with my hat-cam, a small camera device that I have used to similar ill effect in the past.
"A Note for Mary," a small hat-cam film by Jim Schutze, should be viewed -- and no one's saying it actually should be viewed -- as a cry for help.
Here's the thing. Since she retired as Dallas' city manager, Mary Suhm has been beyond my reach. It's possible she regards not talking to me as one of the perquisites of her retirement. She may even have that written out somewhere in her contract: "No longer required to return phone calls or emails from Schutze once I am retired."
If I were convinced she was truly and fully retired, I swear I would leave her alone. No, really, I would. I would certainly try. But I'm not convinced.
Multiple reliable sources have told me they believe that Suhm is still present in City Hall, either full-time, on some regular cyclical basis or ... well, the other possibilities are just too scary to talk about. Some people have told me they believe she still has an office somewhere in the building. This may not be true, but I have heard it whispered often enough that, if it's not true, it should be called, "The Legend of Mary's Office."
On the one hand, why shouldn't she have some kind of little office somewhere at City Hall? No reason at all. She should, if she needs one. She could be involved in some harmless do-good projects like thinking about the future or encouraging kindness.
Or not. The whole business of having her around seems a little spooky to some people, who, by the way, always want to talk to me about it on a not-for-attribution basis, possibly because, unlike me, they are afraid of looking silly. They point out to me that the usual custom is for a retired CEO to vacate the premises and not be seen again for a good long time, so that the successor can make his or her mark.
But is she really there at all? Or is what people are seeing a ...? Don't even say it. It's too scary. And yet, in my role as a representative of this newspaper, I felt it was my duty to go to City Hall, to face whatever it was I would face there in order to finally put this question to rest.
Tuesday I put on a clean shirt and my hat-cam, even though Suhm once snatched it off my head, and went off to City Hall to find her. The results are in my movie, but it's kind of longish, so I'll give you the thumbnail here.
When I went to City Hall to look for her, I was told that only certain people could tell me if she had an office. Weird. Then certain people did tell me she had an office in the Intergovernmental Services (IGS) division. But she wasn't in it. She was, they said, "on vacation." Vacation from what?
Certain other people told me she does not have an office at City Hall but that sometimes she is allowed to sit on a chair in the IGS division. I believe that was a joke. I didn't get it.
Some security people in the building seem to believe she does have a regular office, but they couldn't find it in their phone directories when I asked, which would be perfectly plausible if she is a consultant, not an an employee. I later reached a person in the city's human resources division who said she had never heard of her. So you never know.
What I wound up doing was just walking around the building calling her name and asking people if they had seen her. That's the whole movie. It's pathetic. Don't watch it. I can't watch it again. I think it's a cry for help.
I also spent a good deal of time back in the office calling everybody I could think of and asking if Suhm had an office at City Hall. At the end of the day I got a call back from Shawn Williams, interim managing director of public information for the city, who told me emphatically that she does not have an office at City Hall and has never had an office at City Hall since her retirement, although he said she may have been spotted a few times in the area of the Office of Intergovernmental Services while helping out with projects there.
I may never sleep again.