Tonganoxie city administrator settling in to post
Nathan McCommon oversees operations for the City of Tonganoxie as its newest administrator, but his experience in municipal government runs the gamut.
McCommon, who assumed duties May 14, worked for the City of Kissimmee, Fla., after graduating in 1986 from Jefferson West High School in Meriden and before enrolling at Kansas University.
McCommon did a variety of street-level services, serving as a garbage collector for more than two years.
At his family’s urging, he went to Florida because “they thought I could have a better opportunity.”
He initially was hired as a utility worker in the parks and recreation department, with his first job cleaning bathrooms.
“Then they found out I knew how to do a lot of things,” McCommon said, “From skills I learned on the dairy farm. So I ran the back hoe. I did tree trimming, building maintenance. I installed the irrigation system for downtown Kissimmee.”
McCommon later worked for the City of Topeka and Sedgwick County and has worked as a traffic signal technician and in construction zone safety. In addition, he’s plowed some snow in his time and still maintains his CDL license.
“I know what it takes to actually do the work, not simply study it and manage people who do,” McCommon said.
When he was a garbage collector, McCommon’s trash route consisted of 800 homes.
“I was in phenomenal condition at that time,” McCommon said with a smile, “never to be repeated again.”
McCommon holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature and a master’s degree in public administration from KU.
While at KU, he had a conversation with a classmate who was about to graduate and head back to California. McCommon asked about her impressions of Kansas and she admitted that she really hadn’t explored beyond Lawrence. McCommon took her on a guided tour of some Kansas destinations and word traveled at KU of his impromptu tourism offerings. That spurred McCommon taking other KU students — many from foreign countries — on guided tours of various areas of Kansas. He even continued the tradition when he worked for the City of Kansas City, Mo., where he was a senior analyst in the city manager’s office before coming to Tonganoxie. He’s been offering the tours for 13 years now.
McCommon said he was interested in the Tonganoxie post because of “a combination of professional opportunity and community style.”
The Tonganoxie City Council selected McCommon out of about 40 applicants to replace Mike Yanez, whose contract was not renewed. Yanez worked on an interim basis since January until the council found a replacement.
In his first few weeks on the job, McCommon said the “welcome has been very warm.”
“It’s easy to see the love people have for their hometown,” McCommon said. “Even for those who have recently moved here.”
McCommon didn’t talk in specifics about his priorities for the city, citing that he’s still in the process of assessing things in the city.
“The principles of city government are nearly the same no matter where you go,” McCommon said. “I’m not sure any place is less intense. Every place has its own version of demands.
“And Tonganoxie has its own demands and Kansas City had its own demands when I was there.”
McCommon noted the city’s financial condition determines all of its other decisions. Currently, the city is looking to move its police department to a larger location out of the downtown district and has land south of Tonganoxie it hopes someday — sooner rather than later — will have anchors for an industrial park.
“Having a well-structured budget allows the City Council to have meaningful conversations about the next thing that can make Tonganoxie better,” McCommon said. “So my first priority is the budget.”
McCommon will be preparing a budget for the council’s consideration this summer. There also will be public budget hearings for residents to learn the interworkings of the proposed budget and to offer feedback. McCommon said he’s performing a comprehensive analysis of the budget in anticipation of those conversations.
Asked about a wish list for Tonganoxie, McCommon said the city should have aspirations.
“If budget is not a concern, it’s good to dream and we should always have ideals that are higher than ourselves, but the budget is always a concern,” McCommon said. “But it would be nice to retire debt, create effective incentive programs for economic development, regenerate downtown and have adequate municipal facilities and staffing.”
The new city administrator’s annual salary is $73,500 plus benefits.
McCommon and his wife, Rosalyn, live in Tonganoxie. They have two daughters, Rachel, who just graduated from Emporia State University, and Amber, who will be a sophomore at UMKC in the fall.