Category Archives: City Manager

Urbandale replaces Layton

Urbandale, Iowa found a replacement for its longtime city manager, Robert Layton, who is now Wichita’s manager. It’s A.J. Johnson, who is the big boss in an Iowa town called Muscatine, according to the Des Moines Register’s story. Muscatine is a town of a bit more than 22,000 people on the Iowa-Illinois border.

Urbandale used Slavin Management Consultants (as did Wichita) and landed its new manager about four months after losing Layton. Wichita’s search took a bit more than a year — though Pat Salerno’s now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t act is the main reason. Curiosity still lingers from time to time about why Salerno backed out. So far, the only clue is that someone told him something he didn’t like after he signed the $215,000 a year contract.

George Kolb has a job prospect in Michigan

Former Wichita City Manager George Kolb

Former Wichita City Manager George Kolb

Former Wichita City Manager George Kolb appears to be a finalist for a vacancy in Grand Rapids, Mich., according to a story in The Grand Rapids Press.

But it’s not exactly smooth waters up there. The Press story focuses on the mayor, who is upset with the city’s search firm, which forwarded another candidate (not Kolb) with some tarnished credentials.

Kolb, who has been working as an interim city administrator in Valley Center, is one of four finalists the Press has identified.

DUI bill sent to conference committee

TOPEKA – The House on Monday voted to send a bill creating the Kansas DUI Commission and amending some of the state’s drunken driving laws to a conference committee.

The committee – of three House members and three Senate members – will work to develop a compromise bill.

The Senate inserted the measure into House Bill 2096 and the House wanted to study the bill more.

In addition to the commission and amending some laws, the bill also creates statewide driver improvement clinics.

Brewer optimistic about Layton

Robert LaytonMayor Carl Brewer said he’s spending at least an hour a day with Robert Layton, the new city manager. Trips to Topeka, hallway chatter and hour-long update meetings — the two seem to be getting along well.

Brewer, who strongly backed Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan as the next manager, complimented Layton for being “very candid” about city issues and that the two seem to agree on things 90 percent of the time (Brewer didn’t say what the other 10 percent involves). But, as he chatted with a reporter Tuesday, Brewer said he’s still watching carefully to ensure Layton’s transition is smooth, especially considering ongoing budget problems, state cuts and the influx of federal stimulus money.

Layton will get another little test Thursday when he speaks to the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. Though most businesspeople stayed clear of the manager search, there was a strong battle among others — mostly in strong support or opposition of Buchanan. It will be interesting to see in the next few months what impressions the biz community forms of Layton, a man who got nearly flawless reviews from business people in his former city, Urbandale, Iowa.

Salerno up for another job in Florida

Pat SalernoLast Friday, during Robert Layton’s first agenda review with the City Council, Mayor Carl Brewer asked the new city manager how his first week went. Layton smiled and said that it was so good he’ll be coming back for a second week after a weekend ski trip in Breckenridge, Colo. The punchline, of course, is clear to those who felt burnt by Pat Salerno’s decision to skip out on Wichita after signing a contract last summer. Well, perhaps those bristling council members will appreciate then that Salerno’s decision is following him around virtually everywhere he applies — along with the censure issued by the International City/County Management Association.

Most recently, Salerno’s flirt with Wichita has become part of his paperwork as a candidate in Coral Gables, Florida, a Miami suburb of 42,000 people. That’s according to a story in the Miami Herald, which also covered Salerno when he was city manager of Sunrise, Fla. for nearly two decades. The story reads:

“He has declined top manager posts in Fort Myers, Wichita, Kan., and Surrey, Canada. News stories about how he accepted the job in Wichita and then backed out are included in the ”city manager interview notebook,” delivered to commissioners Thursday.

”That gives me pause,” said Commissioner Maria Anderson, who had taken a preliminary perusal of the notebook on Friday.

”I want a person that if they are going to make a commitment, they are going to stick to it. Right now we need a city manager ready to step in and lead and move forward,” Anderson said.”

Urbandale wants Layton back

When I traveled to Urbandale, Iowa to look into Robert Layton’s background and what folks there think of him I was shocked. Everybody seemed to love him — from City Hall to neighborhood groups to retired employees to people kicking back suds at the bar to my waiter at TGI Fridays. Even the off-record chatter and documents backed it up. Such strong reviews are rare for city managers — they usually take a lot of heat whether they deserve it or not. (When I traveled to Sunrise, Fla., I certainly had no shortage of complaints about Pat Salerno, who was then the Wichita’s only candidate.)

Layton will likely be criticized here with the slate of controversial projects the city is involved in. But people back in Iowa are still bragging about him. The Des Moines Register, which we often link to here to keep up with what’s happening in Urbandale, is reporting that the city is basically looking for a clone of Layton to replace him.

“During Monday’s discussion, nearly every committee member said something along the lines of: “Bob was great at” or “That’s something Bob had” or “Bob always …” the story says.
It will be interesting to see if he can produce such impressions in Wichita.

Layton already drives a hybrid

Last fall, the city put 12 hybrid Honda Civics on the streets. Now there’s another hybrid in the coveted front row parking spot at City Hall, and it has Iowa license plates, a Chicago White Sox license frame and an Iowa Hawkeyes sticker on it. That would make it City Manager Robert Layton’s car — a hybrid Mercury Mariner. (Layton calls Chicago home, but worked in Iowa for a bit more than 25 years.)

When the city rolled out the Civics, it said the cars would $8,400 a year in fuel. But the cars cost $22,782, which is more than the old cars the city bought, so it will take a while — about five years — for the cash savings to be felt.

Editorial praises Layton with a rose

Robert Layton’s departing gift from from The Des Moines Register is a rose. In their Sunday opinion piece, which gives out roses and thistles, Layton was praised for his long-tenure in Urbandale, Iowa.

The paper’s editorial sums it up as “… Kansas’ gain, Iowa’s loss.”

Layton starts as Wichita’s city manager Feb. 2.

Layton praised at going away party in Iowa

Wichita’s incoming city manager, Robert Layton, was praised for his quarter-century career in Urbandale, Iowa last night and said it’s tough to leave, according to a story in the Des Moines Register.

“I love movies about Iowa, and ‘Field of Dreams’ is my favorite. And I can’t stop thinking of a quote from the movie: Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows as cold,” Layton told the newspaper. “It’s so hard to leave.”

Layton contract likely Thursday

Maybe, just maybe, Wichita will sign its new city manager Thursday, a move that could be made official at a special 1 p.m. meeting in City Hall, sources say. Robert Layton was expected Tuesday to send back either confirmation that an agreement had been reached or that more negotiating would be needed. Neither happened, perhaps because of the heavy snow that canceled some classes and led to emergency street-clearing efforts in Urbandale, Iowa, the Des Moines suburb Layton has managed for more than 24 years. Stay tuned to Thursday for updates.