Shocked by the death early today of City Manager Buford Watson, Lawrence city commissioners now must turn their attention to assuring the continued functioning of city hall.
Watson, Lawrence's city manager for more than 19 years, died after suffering a heart attack early today.
City officials this morning took steps to initiate an emergency meeting of the commission, which tentatively was scheduled for 5 p.m. today. The purpose of the meeting was to give commissioners an opportunity to appoint an interim or acting city manager.
"There has to be somebody at the helm of the operation," City Attorney Jerry Cooley said. "There has to be one person responsible to the commission if only in an acting basis."
Cooley said the procedure for appointment of an interim city manager is outlined in the city code, and such an appointment requires passage of an ordinance.
Three commissioners, including Mayor Bob Schumm, said this morning that it was premature to speculate on the search that will take place for a permanent city manager replacement.
When Ray Wells, Watson's predecessor as Lawrence city manager, resigned in 1969, a seven-member committee was appointed to screen applicants with the final selection left to the city commission. Between the time that Wells resigned and Watson was named his replacement, more than two months passed while the city operated with an interim manager.