Torry L. Edwards was born and raised in Dallas, TX. He received a football scholarship along with his BA in criminal justice from the University of New Mexico. He completed his master’s at the University of Texas in public affairs with a concentration in economics and public administration.
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. In 1998, Edwards was hired as a government instructor at Dallas County Community College District. Then in 2002, Edwards became the city manager, chief executive officer, for the city of Terrell, TX, and remained there for almost 17 years.
Edward’s is the sole author of public works and management journal titled; Sustainable Intergovernmental Agreements: A Case Study of Civil Infrastructure Design and Regional Cooperation. The purpose was to assist leading public works professionals and allow them to model and build innovate governmental water, wastewater & transportation systems. It was published in a leading peer-review public works management and policy journal in 2007. There is a significant rarity that a Chief Executive Officer, leading a city and published in a best business practice case study. Torry L. Edwards scholarly works was translated in Russian for public works professional in Russia to utilize.
In 2019, Edwards retired from the city of Terrell. He continues to work as a professor at Dallas County Community College District, where he teaches Texas government and federal government.
In addition to playing football in college, Edwards was the Northcentral Texas bodybuilding champion in 1984. He loves rebuilding classic cars and spending time with his family.
1. What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I love people and serving people. I am not motivated by profit; money does not motivate me. I’m driven by government service, and the ability to provide outstanding government service and truly impact the lives of citizens and the people on a local government level.
2. What does a typical day consist of for you?
A wide variety of public sector problems ranging from a tornado crisis, where a tornado has come in and devastated a community, all the way up to working with a Fortune 100 company for economic development. Then enticing and incentivizing the Fortune 100 company to locate into the city in which you serve. It ranges from creating wealth, to crisis intervention, to dealing with a tornadic event.
3. How do you motivate others?
I’ve been successful in transferring a collegiate athletic, competitive background into government environments and private business environments to motivate and inspire employees to follow the mission and grow the mission of the institution or the organization.
4. How do you maintain a solid work-life balance?
That is the core of Torry Edwards. I balance it by following this exact order: faith first, family second, and career third.
5. What traits do you possess that make a successful leader?
I am a strong motivator of people and a rock-solid leader of people in various initiatives and programs.
6. What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
I once had a chief executive officer, a city manager of the city of Dallas, share some advice with me. He said, “learn the ability to ask good questions. It’s a skill.” I then added on to this piece of advice to where it takes more energy to listen than it does to speak because you must listen in an intentional way. You can’t listen to conversations or strategy meetings in your private business or a governmental institution just so you’re quick to speak. You must listen in an intentional way to get a clear understanding of what your team members, your executive staff, and others are really saying.
I believe we’re now in an environment where transparency and factual conversations in a business environment are becoming rare conversations. It’s taking more energy as the leader to listen intentionally, to gather back in order to develop a strategy to move the organization forward. In these intentional conversations, if you’re dealing with misinformation, it can diminish the strategic goals of the organization. Unfortunately, humans are not always forthcoming, and as a leader you must be willing to pull information out of people. You’ve got to have the ability to check the data, check the facts, and recheck, before you step out with new product development or a new direction for the organization, or a new service delivery or policy formulation in government. You need to make sure that due diligence is happening.
7. What is your biggest accomplishment?
I believe my biggest accomplishment was being a chairman of the board for a higher education institution. We were able to turn it around from where its accreditation was in jeopardy to now, where its accreditation is solid to degrees or fully accredited. The fiscal sustainability of the institution is strong, audits are clean, and we graduate about a hundred students a year with a private four-year degree. We’re also seeing about a 300% increase in student growth at the institution. I’m very proud of that.
8. What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?
Every human has a value, and if you sit down and have a conversation with them, you’ll discover that yourself.
9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’ll continue to serve, even if it’s in a part-time capacity, as a professor of government. I would also like to continue to serve as a city manager in local government or possibly a federal government executive or a state-level government executive.
10. Explain the proudest day of your professional life.
The proudest day was when we completely redid the city water supply and built $15 million new infrastructure to receive the water. Then we, the city, turned on the new distribution system of water, and over 40,000 customers received fresh, high-quality drinking water, and there were no issues. It was a seamless process.