Texarkana, Texas City Manager
Growing up, David Orr’s family instilled the importance of giving back to the community, and when David attended the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, he studied political science for his undergraduate degree and graduated with a master’s in public administration. He is currently the Texarkana, Texas City Manager. “My passion is to work with our outstanding team at the city to improve our community each and every day,” David says. “Texarkana is my hometown, and to make it a better place for our three children one day is my greatest motivation.”
Professionally, David is honored and humbled to lead “Team Texarkana,” which includes, at the moment, 531 employees. “Our daily mission as city staff is to provide customer-focused public services and regional leadership that serves our residents and visitors while offering a safe, vibrant, and welcoming community,” David says.
Although he has had several accomplishments in his career, David says that his greatest accomplishment is his family. “I am married to Laura, and we have three kids: Ellison (7), Ollie (4), and Adley Claire (1 ½),” David says. “My family has been a huge support system in my career at the city. Many nights are spent at public meetings or events throughout the city. My wife and kids attend as many family-friendly events as possible, and my mom rarely misses a speaking engagement.”
David says that he and his wife, Laura, had the unique opportunity through a Rotary Ambassadorial Program to live, learn, and work in Cape Town, South Africa, for a year, early in their marriage. “That experience gave us a new global perspective that we work to instill in our kids,” David says. “We have friends through Rotary that we still keep in touch with and that our kids know as their South African grandparents.”
From a leadership perspective, David has always admired Nelson Mandela and his work to build a new South Africa. “He took over a country on the brink of civil war and led the country through a relatively peaceful transition of power. My wife and I lived in South Africa the year he passed away,” David says. “It was an honor to be there to witness the tributes to his life and the generational impact his leadership had on the country he loved. ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done,’ is one of my favorite quotes by him and one that inspires me daily.”
David’s goal is for Texarkana to continue to be a thriving regional center for education, business, and culture that attracts and serves its residents and visitors. David says that it will take continued investments in all three areas to accomplish this. “We have some of the best K-12 and higher education opportunities with two major university systems and an award-winning community college located in Texarkana,” David says. “From a business perspective, we have an outsized number of local small businesses that continue to grow and expand by adding jobs to our employment base. We also have a team that is working on expanding our entrepreneurial networks and business opportunities by developing a Texarkana Creator Space (business incubator).
From a cultural perspective, David says that Texarkana has a number of arts and historic institutions that provide a wide range of programming for our community. “I’ve had the honor of chairing for almost the past decade our downtown Arts & Historic District that was named a Texas Cultural District in 2016,” David says. “Our team has completed a number of projects over the years from the Scott Joplin Mural, Kress Gap Murals, and most recently working with the Leadership Texarkana Strategic Doing Team to complete the U.S. Post Office and Federal Courthouse improvements.”
However, it has not all been easy to accomplish the projects helping restore downtown Texarkana. One struggle that David now enjoys telling the story of is the redevelopment of the Hotel Grim. “I personally, along with our team, worked on the project for over a decade with numerous developers and project proposals. Many days fell away with nothing to show,” David says. “There were more failures than victories for the better part of the decade; however, over time, things started finally falling into place. With seven different sources of financing, it was a very complex historic preservation project but one that was so important for our community. It was also a huge accomplishment for our team that took on an almost impossible project and found a way to make it work. We now have the privilege of telling the Hotel Grim redevelopment story locally to civic organizations and at conferences across the country.”
Looking into the future, David has both long-term and short-term goals that focus on the economic development of our region. “We’ve seen growth in a number of areas of town over the last several years, and the resurgence in our downtown has been fun to be a part of,” David says. “However, there is much more to be done, and to accomplish that, we have an incredible regional economic development team that includes AR-TX REDI, TexAmericas, Texarkana College, TAMU-T, and a number of other organizations working to grow our region.”
Besides his daily work at the city, David also gives his time to many community organizations. “I serve as Chairperson of the Texarkana Arts & Historic District, and teaching adjunct at Texas A&M University- Texarkana since 2009. I’m also a member of the Wilbur Smith Rotary Club, a founding former board member of For the Sake of One, a board member of both the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra and the Texarkana Regional Arts & Humanities Council,” David says. “Our family attends Heritage Church, and there we serve as small group leaders in Kid City.”
When he does have free time, David enjoys coaching flag football, leading a cub scout den, and volunteering on a Rotary Club flag route. “Also, although a Texan, I’m an avid Arkansas Razorback fan, and we try to attend several football games each year in Fayetteville with family. Woo Pig Sooie!” David says.
Through it all, David wants to be remembered for both his community service and his role in his family. “I would like to be remembered for a life well lived as a public servant, and, most importantly, as a dad and husband,” David says.