Aretha R. Ferrell-Benavides has served over 30 years as a public servant, with significant and successful community engagement, fiscal management, and professional economic development experience. Her vast experience spans municipal government to County, State, and Federal governmental expertise. She has demonstrated her versatility to adapt to organizations of different sizes and cultures during her career, having served in metropolitan cities like Chicago, Illinois, Washington, DC, and smaller communities like Glenn Heights, Texas, and Los Alamos, New Mexico. The depth of this experience also encompasses communities that vary in size, diversity, regions of the country, and their socio-economic characteristics.
Ms. Ferrell-Benavides held her third progressive City Management appointment as the first African American and Female City Manager of Duncanville, Texas, until 2023. Before that appointment, she served as City Manager for Petersburg, Virginia, and the City of Glenn Heights, Texas. While working in the City of Glenn Heights, Texas, she oversaw the City's first-ever successful bond election and issuance. During her first month with the City of Duncanville, she managed the City immediately following and through COVID-19, a crippling ice storm, and the tragic death of the Interm City Manager/Assistant City Manager. Her task was to support the team as she worked toward reestablishing the workforce to its normal operations. To guide the City forward, she led the development of the City's First multi-year Strategic Action Plan and a new Customer Services Program. The program transcends from a customer service desk to a program in each department. Introducing the "CHEERS" program within the City connected each employee with the City's Vision for customer services. This program instilled the following concepts: Courteous, Helpful, Enthusiastic, and Exceptional professional service that is Result-oriented and always with a Smile. As a strategic priority of the Action Plan, this program is directly aligned with employees' performance plans, as well as the culture of the organization. We were cultivating an organization that prioritizes customer service, which included establishing measurable standards and guidelines, ongoing training, and assessing our service to our customers to ensure compliance.
As City Manager for Petersburg, Virginia, she led the effort to return the City to fiscal stability and growth by increasing the fund balance from a negative $7 million to $17 Million following the final audit of her tenure, which was the highest in over ten years. Due to the reform under her tenure today, the City has a positive fund balance of $55 million. Working closely with the S&P Rating agency, her team restored the City's credit rating from a low of BB stable outlook to today's investment grade of A+ with a positive outlook.
Finally, with a greater focus on Economic Development, she led the way for greater economic diversification for Petersburg by securing the inclusion of the City into the federal opportunity zone. Through the expansion of Petersburg's technology zone, the City engaged pharmaceutical company AMPAC Fine Chemical to expand its presence, resulting in a $350 Million federal contract to produce COVID-19-related medicines and the site's expansion resulting in a multi-business Pharmaceutical Park also included pharmaceutical companies Civica and Phlow.
She has spent considerable time in the Washington Metropolitan area during her career, where she previously served as the Deputy Secretary of the State for the District of Columbia. Serving under four Administrations, she held positions including Chief Operating Officer for the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation; Chief of Staff for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Children, Youth, Families and Elders; and Director for the Office of Neighborhood Action and the Community Empowerment Cluster. From 1995 to 1997, she served as the Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Governor of Maryland.
In 1997 her career in local government led her to Chicago, Illinois. She served as a Mayoral Appointee working for the City of Chicago as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Chicago Housing Authority and as Chicago's Assistant Chief Information Officer for the Department of Business and Information Services.
As part of her journey toward City Management in a Council-Manager form of government, Mrs. Ferrell-Benavides previously served as the Assistant County Administrator for Los Alamos County, New Mexico. She managed the County's Intergovernmental Program and Economic Development in that role. For the City of Sunnyvale, California, Mrs. Ferrell-Benavides served as the Assistant to the City Manager, overseeing Sunnyvale's Intergovernmental and Legislative programs.
While completing her undergraduate and graduate degrees, she participated in the Central Intelligence Agency's Undergraduate Intern and Graduate Fellows program, focusing on Soviet Military Issues. At the same time, she served as the President of the Internship Program and was interviewed on the NBC Today's Show regarding the value of her experience with the CIA. As a summer employee, Mrs. Ferrell-Benavides held her first local government job with the City of Fort Worth in 1988.
Mrs. Ferrell-Benavides is committed to serving in the field of Public Administration and is a member of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), Texas City Managers Associations (TCMA), and induced as a fellow into the 2021 National Academy of Public Administration Class. Since 1988, Mrs. Ferrell-Benavides has been a member of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA), beginning with serving as the organization's student representative on the national board of directors in 1993 and ultimately being elected in 2011 as the organization's 17th National President. Mrs. Ferrell-Benavides is a 1995 Graduate of the NFBPA's Mentor Program and a 1999 graduate of the Executive Leadership Institute. In 2017, she was awarded the Marks of Excellence Award. The Marks of Excellence Award is bestowed upon an African American Public Administrator who has achieved extraordinary success in public management. She was awarded the 2002 NFBPA Young Public Administrator of the Year Award. This nationally competitive award recognizes an administrator under age 35 who has demonstrated an above-average commitment and success in the profession and community.
Mrs. Ferrell-Benavides is a Life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. In January 2023, she was elected to the Greater Dallas Goodwill Board based on years of commitment to public services. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a Master of Arts in Public Administration from Howard University in Washington, DC. She has also completed the University of Virginia Senior Executive Institute and the 2015 Class of Leadership Southwest.