Lawrence City Manager Buford Watson always will hold a special place among numerous city employees, as well as public administrators across the nation, his colleagues said.
Praise for Watson continues to come in, a day after Lawrence's longtime city manager died from a heart attack, as word of Watson's death spread to city managers and public administrators across the nation.
Bill Hansell, president of the International City Management Assn., described Watson as "truly one of the greatest city managers in America.
"He was totally committed to public service, to the principles of representative democracy and to the highest ideals of our profession," Hansell said from his office in Washington, D.C. "As a past president of the ICMA, he gave great vision and leadership.
``Saddest to me personally is I've lost a friend.''
ERNIE MOSHER, executive director of the League of Kansas Municipalities, said Watson was an outstanding municipal leader.
In Kansas, Watson was active in league affairs and served on the league's state legislative committee for a number of years. He also was past president of the Kansas Association of City Managers.
Watson was a frequent speaker to groups of city officials and was well-known throughout the state. Most recently he was a member of the league's special committee on the future of Kansas government.
"There's no question that he was recognized by city managers in Kansas as one of the outstanding city managers in the state," Mosher said.
Don Pipes, city manager of Overland Park, shared a professional relationship with Watson dating back more than 30 years. Pipes said the legions of interns who trained under Watson will be be among his legacies.
"A great number of people in city management earned their training under him by starting out as interns," he said. "Buford certainly was a leader in the profession of city management. I think the people he trained and had as assistants will have a profound effect on city management for some time to come."
WATSON ALSO won accolades from friends and associates at Kansas University. John Nalbandian, associate professor and former chairman of KU's Department of Public Administration, released a statement on behalf of the department.
"There was no greater champion of the Kansas University public administration program than Buford Watson. We've lost a dear friend and we have lost one of the most respected city managers in America. . . . The city of Lawrence will replace the city manager, but the MPA program can never replace Buford, nor will we ever forget what he did for us."
In a prepared statement, KU Chancellor Gene Budig said: "The University of Kansas has lost a good and trusted friend, and the Lawrence community has lost a nationally known and respected resource. All of us will miss his wise and humane counsel."
Local government officials also added their reflections on Watson's career.
DOUGLAS COUNTY Administrator Chris McKenzie's association with Watson goes back 10 years, including McKenzie's previous work with the League of Kansas Municipalities.
"I considered him a good friend and a mentor," McKenzie said, "and a good supporter of meeting the county's needs and city-county cooperation. I'm just going to miss him an awful lot.''
Lawrence Mayor Bob Schumm said Watson's reputation was especially evident at events outside of Lawrence, such as the National League of Cities annual meetings.
"You don't realize how great a person Buford was until you go to a national conference or convention with him. Then you'd know he was one of the very best," Schumm said.
"He was the dean of city managers. He was sought out for his advice, and he had great communicative lines throughout the world. We really had the pleasure of serving with one of the very best and one of the most recognizable persons in his field," Schumm said.
DOUGLAS COUNTY Commissioner Mike Amyx, who also has served as Lawrence mayor, said he had an association of more than six years with Watson.
"I truly, for myself, lost a very good friend, someone who helped me and taught me a lot," Amyx said.
David Penny, elected to the commission in April, summed up the effect of Watson's death this way: "It's like losing a father in a sense. He knew everybody. He knew the history and background of so many things going on in Lawrence. I didn't agree with Buford on everything, but everybody had a good working relationship with Buford."
At city hall, Watson's death cast a pall over the workday Wednesday, City Clerk Ray Hummert said.
"I think everyone is just really shocked still," he said. "One day he was here and alive and his cheery self. The next day he's just not here.''