City Manager

Gary Ortiz_250Gary Ortiz has been offered a contract to become the next Eudora City Manager (photo courtesy the KU Public Management Center)

Eudora News and Informationwww.eudorareporter.com

Looks like Eudora may soon have a new City Manager. On Monday night, the City Commission approved offering a contract to Gary Ortiz, currently the Assistant County Administrator in Wyandotte County, KS.  If he accepts the offer, Ortiz will replace current City Manager Mike Press.

When Press took over for City Administrator John Harrenstein in early 2013, the plan was to have Press serve as an interim City Manager until a permanent City Manager could be hired. Commissioners could not find a candidate they preferred at the time and ultimately asked Press to stay as a replacement until a suitable candidate became available.  According to Press, his stay was supposed to be very short term.

“Harrenstein called me asked if I would do this on a temporary basis,” Press said. “But then after a while I offered to stay until we found someone suitable.  We finally found such a person.”

Press said that his intention was never to be here long term. Press had retired as Johnson County Administrator and then went on to serve as Interim City Manager for both Gardner and Edgerton, KS prior to coming to Eudora.  Press said that despite looking towards retirement once again, he will miss the city. In previous conversations with press he stated Eudora always has a special place in his heart.

“My family used to pick up pelts here in the old days and deliver them to the garment district,” Press said. “This town means a lot to me and it always will.”

Ortiz returns to the position of being a City Manager.  He served as the City Manager in Leavenworth, KS from 1998 until 2007 when he moved to the Wyandotte County position. He has been with that job since. Ortiz graduated from Benedictine College in Atchison and received a Master’s Degree from KU in Public Education.  During his time at KU, he received the Robert Scott Brooks Award for outstanding student in Public Administration.  Ortiz currently is an instructor of the KU Public Management Center, a leading program for future city leaders.

Mayor John Fiore spoke greatly about Ortiz and his selection as the new City Manager.

“His experience and resume are stellar,” Fiore said. “He’s very knowledgeable and has shown a strong commitment to the previous municipalities he has served.”

Fiore said that two candidates have been interviewed for the position in the last month and Ortiz stood above the other unidentified candidate.  Fiore added that he also compared him to the interviews conducted in 2013 and the Commission could not identify a better candidate.

“We were lucky to be able to wait until we found the right candidate for the position and we did just that,” Fiore stated.

Ortiz was not at the Commission meeting on Monday night and we attempted to reach him by phone on Tuesday but were unsuccessful.   Press said that if the offer is accepted, he expected Ortiz would be on the job in Eudora in approximately 3 to 6 weeks.

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Mike PressNew Permanent City Manager Mike Press (photo by Eudorareporter.com Managing Editor John Schulz)

Eudora News and Informationwww.eudorareporter.com

The Eudora City Commission on Monday night hired Mike Press as the new City Manager.  Press, who has served as Interim City Manager since March of this year, was hired on annual contract basis. The initial contract will run one year, with an option to renew it yearly for two additional years.

Press worked for the Johnson County, KS government for nearly 30 years, the last ten as County Manager before retiring in 2009.  Press also served as Interim City Manager for the cities of both Gardner, KS and Edgerton, KS in 2011 and 2012. Press replaces John Harrenstein who left Eudora in March for a similar position in North Mankato, MN.

Press, who had stated emphatically upon his arrival that he was most certainly “interim”, had a change of heart in his three short months in Eudora.

“This is a great community and I’ve grown to appreciate and love this town,” Press said following the announcement.

Press had worked with the City Commission in trying to find an permanent Manager. Just a month ago, the Commission had narrowed down the pool of applicants to two finalists and offered the job to one of them, with Press not being one of the finalists. The identity of the finalist the position was offered to was not identified by name.

“The situation with the other applicant did not work out,” Press told us. Press said he could not elaborate further on the events surrounding why it did not work out.

Other applicants were interviewed by the Commission but according to Mayor Ruth Hughs, none of the other candidates sparked serious interest by the Commission as a permanent City Manager.

“I believe Eudora needs and deserves a City Manager who has passion and drive to move a city forward,” Hughs said. “We are on a journey to excellence and finding the right City Manager to get us there is critical.  Mike embodies all the qualities we could want in a City Manager.”

Commission Kenny Massey also had high praise for the work Press has done as Interim City Manager.

“He’s provided us great leadership for the last few months and with his experience in Johnson County plus the contacts he has already built up over the years, we thought this was the right thing to do,” Massey said. “I’m excited about his experience and knowledge he will bring to the table in the future.”

When asked if the Commission had to work hard to get Press to stay on permanently, Massey said that the City didn’t have to do much arm twisting.

“While I can’t speak for Mike directly, I really think when he got here, he felt really comfortable in this town.  I think he saw the potential and the opportunity to help move Eudora forward,” Massey stated.

During his time as Interim City Manager, Press’ agenda was to help keep the city functioning and moving forward, but not necessarily delve into long term projects and initiatives. Now that the interim tagged has been removed we asked what he plans on for the coming months as the new City Manager.

“We’ve got to look at economic development in Eudora,” Press said. “Bringing in new families and new business while retaining and expanding the current businesses is such an important factor.  I also plan on making sure our infrastructure is maintained and improvements to it are made in the future.”

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City Hall1

Eudora News and Informationwww.eudorareporter.com

The Eudora City Commission has named Mike Press as Interim City Manager.  Press worked for the Johnson County, KS government for nearly 30 years, the last ten as County Manager before retiring in 2009.  Press also served as Interim City Manager for the cities of both Gardner, KS and Edgerton, KS in 2011 and 2012.

“He comes highly recommended,” Commissioner Ruth Hughs said. ” Every place he has been, they thought he was wonderful.”

Press spent his career in Johnson County where he started in 1976 as an EMT and moved through the ranks to reach the counties highest position.

“He brings a lot to the table and has expertise in public safety,” Hughs added. ” With the new Public Safety building currently under construction, his input will be invaluable.”

Press will start as Eudora’s Interim City Manager on Monday, March 4.  He takes over for John Harrenstein who leaves on March 1 for the job of City Administrator in North Mankato, MN.

Press will serve until the city hires a permanent City Manager.  The City has hired Art Davis to serve as a recruitment specialist in the search for a permanent Manager.

Davis has an equally impressive resume.  He served as City Administrator of Lee’s Summit, MO at the height of their growth in the 1990’s and also worked in Lenexa and Dallas, TX city governments.  Davis currently serves on the Board of Directors of Truman Medical Center,  Harmony/NCCJ, the Kansas City Architectural Foundation, and is a member of the President’s Advisory Council for William Jewell College.  Davis has also served as the the head of the KU alumni association of City Managers.

According to Hughs, the City Commission plans to wait until after the April 2 election to conduct the interview process for a new City Manager and hopefully make an offer in late April or early May if a worthy candidate is identified.

“We will search until we get the right fit,” Hughs added.

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