Archive for Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Administrator search to reach across nation

March 29, 2000

Wanted: City administrator for growing town in northeastern Kansas.

Tonganoxie's city administrator late last week officially accepted the city manager's job in Keizer, Ore., just north of Salem. And Monday night, administrator Chris Eppley submitted his resignation to the Tonganoxie City Council.

Now, it's up to the council to find a replacement for Eppley. At Monday's meeting, council members decided to conduct a search on the local, state and national levels. It's unlikely the council will find a replacement before Eppley's last day, May 19.

"In one way, we're in a hurry because we're reliant upon Chris and what he does for us as a council," said Mayor John Franiuk. "On the other hand, we're confident enough in what we know and how we're conducting things in the city."

During the next few days, council members will think about what qualities they would like in a new city administrator. In addition, members of the community should talk with council members about the qualifications they think the council should require.

"We'd like to hear their sentiments, and what they're looking for in the next city administrator," said Mayor John Franiuk.

Franiuk said Eppley has done an excellent job for Tonganoxie and he's helped focus the city council.

"We've seen him prepare us for this new century in the way that he's lined out to us how other big cities started out as fledglings," he said.

Janet Angell, a nine-year city council veteran, said she believes Tonganoxie will hear from a number of good applicants because the city is growing.

"I'd like to see experience," she said. "I don't want anybody just right out of school. We had that with one, which was fine. Chris had some experience. I want more."

Eppley, who will begin work in Keizer on May 30, said leaving Tonganoxie, where he's been city administrator since January 1997, will be very difficult.

"I talked with a lot of people last week, a lot of city staff, a lot of friends, a lot of family," he said. "I am more at peace with myself now. It's one of the most difficult decisions I've ever made."

Eppley said the city council took a chance on him when they hired him at age 26.

"I've always appreciated that," he said. "This is a special place.

"I've never been in a place where everybody is so unified and willing to donate their time and energy to promote a righteous cause. You have business owners, you have council members, you have city staff, you have citizens all moving in the same direction, very supportive, a lot of positive energy. That is probably the community's best asset."

Eppley, whose wife took a job in Oregon, will be difficult to replace.

"Chris really was a huge asset to the community," said Chris Donnelly, a former member of the Tonganoxie Planning Commission. "His heart was in it. Replacing anybody good is difficult. It is so important for the correct growth of the community to have somebody in the leadership role. I really hate to see him go. I don't blame him. You've got to do what's best for your family, I really believe in that. I know he's done well for the community.

"We need to find someone just like him."

In Keizer, a town of about 30,000, city officials are eager for Eppley's arrival, according to Mayor Bob Newton. And Eppley will get right to work as the city puts the finishing touches on its budget in June.

"That's one of the reasons we wanted him out here as soon as he could," Newton said. "He's a quick study. I don't think that will be a challenge for him."

In Keizer, Eppley will be paid about $65,000 annually. His present salary is about $46,580.

"Salary was never part of the equation," Eppley said. "When you figure in the cost of living, the price of homes, it's about the same."

During the next two months, Eppley will try to sell his house in Tonganoxie and tie up loose ends at work.

"It's been fun," he said. "It's been extremely fun. Tonganoxie's just a delightful community. It's got a lot going on. From a professional standpoint, it's been very challenging and offered a great deal of personal satisfaction.

"Also, I've met a huge number of people who have touched my life here. Those friendships always are difficult to break. The council has been wonderful to work for. It's been a tremendous experience."

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