From the City Manager 11/04/2016
If I haven’t said ‘thank you’ enough, I’m saying it now!
I’m getting a jump start on the Thanksgiving season with a reminder of how blessed I am, every day, to work with an incredibly strong team at City Hall. In 31 years of city management, I’ve worked with many good people with solid skills and diverse talents. But, the folks leading our city departments in Independence are, without a doubt, the most competent and dedicated managers I’ve ever known. In fact, their competence is surpassed only, perhaps, by their passion for this community.
As City budgets have tightened over the years, job duties have been consolidated, and today, we have fewer director-level positions managing more responsibilities than ever before. Many of our directors work quietly and efficiently in the background. You may not even know them, so I wanted to take an opportunity to highlight the contributions they make to our municipal government.
Kelly Passauer, Assistant City Manager. In addition to being my right arm, Kelly is responsible for managing the zoning and building departments and supporting the city commission and the Planning Commission/Board of Zoning Appeals.
She has worked for the City for 27 years. Her first job was as a records clerk for the police department, and she later became a certified police dispatcher. In 1992, she transferred to the Engineering/Public Works Department, and later to the city manager’s office, where she advanced over time to the positions of administrative secretary, administrative assistant, and eventually, assistant to the city manager. She was promoted to Assistant City Manager/Zoning Administrator in April 2008, and served as interim city manager from March to July 2010.
Kelly earned her Public Manager certification from the University of Kansas Public Management Center in 2008. She is a graduate of Pittsburg State University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management.
Simply stated, Kelly knows pretty much everything there is to know about City of Independence business past and present. She is highly attentive to detail and truly the glue that holds the city offices together.
Terry Lybarger, Water/Sewer Department Director. Terry’s role is likely taken for granted but should be highly appreciated by those of us who enjoy a good shower, flushing toilets and safe drinking water. Terry oversees the operations of the water distribution/sewer collection department, the water treatment plant and the wastewater treatment plant.
A 36-year employee of the City of Independence, Terry was hired in 1980 as a Public Service Worker I in the Street Department. In 1984, he transferred to the sewer department as a maintenance mechanic and a year later to the wastewater treatment plant. In 1995, he was promoted to Foreman of the water distribution/sewer collection department, and he was later appointed Interim Director of Public Services until a new Public Services Director was hired. In 1999, Terry advanced to Assistant Director of Utilities and in 2005 to Director of Utilities.
Terry’s education includes an associate’s degree in Environmental Science from Fort Scott Community College, and he maintains both a Class II Water Treatment License and Class IV Wastewater Treatment License.
Barb Beurskens, Park & Zoo Director. Barb is responsible for management of Riverside Park and Ralph Mitchell Zoo, as well as directing the Cemetery Department and supporting the park board and FORPAZ board. She has been instrumental in many significant park improvements over the past few years, including the refurbishing of Logan Fountain and Monkey Island and innumerable infrastructure projects to improve our park and zoo facilities and enhance our visitors’ experiences.
Barb has served in her current role since September 2012, but she is actually celebrating 35 years of service with the City of Independence. Originally, she was hired as a secretary in the City Clerk’s office in 1981. She was later promoted to Clerk III, and in 2000, she was promoted to Deputy City Clerk.
Barb is a graduate of Kansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and a minor in Business.
David Cowan, Public Safety Director. Another long-term (30 years), highly dedicated leader on our team, David supervises the Independence Fire/EMS and Police departments and administers the City’s safety program. He has his hands full managing all public safety services and programs for our community and really does an all-around masterful job. Notably, he helped lead our successful Fire/EMS department consolidation efforts; managed the re-evaluation and adjustments of emergency operations in light of the hospital’s closure; and, most recently, played a key role in the implementation of our new 911 system.
David began his employment with the City in 1986 as an EMT I. He advanced through the ranks as an EMT II and MICT (Paramedic), and in January 1996, he was promoted to Interim Director of EMS. He assumed the EMS Director’s role two years later, then was promoted to Public Safety Director in January 2012.
David’s education includes two associate’s degrees: Applied Science and MICT from Coffeyville Community College; and an LPN degree from Neosho County Community College. Additionally, he currently serves on the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council.
Mike Passauer, Director of Public Works. Mike covers a lot of territory supervising the Street Department, Sanitation Department, Airport and Memorial Hall and does it all in a very efficient and competent fashion. He also serves on the Montgomery County Solid Waste Committee and leads the annual city wide cleanup event.
Perhaps the “quietest” of our team, he leads more by example than by directive, often working shoulder-to-shoulder with the employees in his departments. Mike represented the City on the small planning group that helped establish our successful community recycling program and coordinates all the recycling logistics. Like clockwork, you can find him the first Saturday morning of every month unloading and sorting recyclables at the sanitation yard.
Mike has 27 years of service with the City, and was first hired as a seasonal employee in the Street Department in 1989. He soon transitioned to full-time employment and worked up the ladder through the categories of Public Service Worker I, II and III, before promotion to Assistant Foreman in the Street Department in 1996. Over the next few years, he continued the step-by-step advancement from Interim Assistant Street Supervisor, to Interim Street Supervisor and ultimately Street Supervisor in 2003, and in 2008, he was promoted to Director of Public Works.
Prior to working for the City, Mike attended auto mechanic classes at Pittsburg State University.
Jennifer Rutledge, City Clerk/Director of Finance. Jen is our “numbers” guru and is responsible for overseeing budgeting and, essentially, all money coming in and going out. She supervises the clerks in the water department, as well as the work of the City Treasurer.
Jen assumed her current role in June 2015 and previously served as City Treasurer as an independent contractor for one year. She also formerly served on the City’s Planning Commission/Board of Zoning Appeals.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting from Washburn University.
Jerry Harrison, Independence Police Chief. Jerry is the newest member of our team and has settled in very nicely in his important role after joining us in March. He oversees all operations of IPD, including the patrol and detective units and the 911 dispatch center. Jerry has taken a particular interest in community outreach and is working to make our department even more accessible and attuned to community policing needs and expectations.
Jerry brings more than 20 years of military and law enforcement experience to the position and came to us from the Monett, Missouri, police department, where he served as sergeant.
He graduated from the police academy at Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) in Joplin and attended Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and an associate’s degree in Law Enforcement from MSSU. He has taught criminal justice courses at the college level and is pursuing a master’s degree in Criminology at Missouri State University.
So, were you counting? If so, you’ve learned that, collectively, my department leaders represent 158 years of service to the City of Independence. That’s not total years of experience in their respective fields, that is dedicated service to this community. I think that number alone speaks volumes about the loyalty, commitment, invaluable knowledge and experience that these leaders bring to the challenge of keeping our City functioning and progressing.
I’ve often said that this leadership team is irreplaceable. But what I probably haven’t said often enough is how truly blessed and thankful I am to work alongside them. This season and all year round, I hope you’ll pause to consider the contributions these folks make to the community you love and offer your thanks as well.
Micky Webb, City Manager