Kolb’s past confronts him in Durham, N.C.

Kolb in Durham, N.C.As Durham, N.C. narrows its list of finalists for city manager, each of the candidates is being pressed to explain why they were ousted from their previous cities, according to today’s story in The News and Observer. During a Monday night forum designed to let community members there meet the three finalists for city manager, reporters pressed former Wichita city manager George Kolb to respond to criticisms about his communication with council members, confrontations with Sunflower Community Action and why he was forced to resign in January. (Kolb has since been working as a guest lecturer at Wichita State University.)

Kolb, no stranger to these questions, defended himself as he has in the past. He said he keeps council members informed, handled Sunflower appropriately and resigned because of “philosophical differences.” But he also used his community interview to boast the progress he felt he facilitated in Wichita.

Prompted by community member questions, Kolb said minority contractors obtained about 10 percent more city business under his watch, which appears to be true — or close to it — based on the most recent city-generated reports. He also highlighted the city’s partnership with private philanthropists to build the Boys and Girls Club on 21st Street. (Kolb said it’s a model for the nation, but he didn’t mention that President Bush liked the idea so much he came out to see it.) And he said if he gets the job in Durham, he will hold himself and city staff accountable. “People ought to be held accountable for what they say they’re going to do,” he told the crowd.

Kolb, who said he felt has been mis-characterized in past Eagle articles, also seemed to acknowledge that being city manager is a job done under intense pressure, and that it’s not always pretty. “Sometimes these things can be boring,” he said of the community forum. “We’re not professional actors. We’re not professors who stand before a class, although some of them can be boring too.”