Douglas County Administrator Chris McKenzie today announced he was resigning to become executive director of the League of Kansas Municipalities in Topeka.
McKenzie, 40, has been county administrator since 1985 and is the only person to serve in that job.
He will replace Ernie Mosher, who is retiring after 31 years as league director.
McKenzie worked for the league from 1979 to 1985 as an attorney and director of research. He joined the county as a combined administrator-counselor-personnel director and became its full-time administrator when the position was created in 1986.
McKenzie said he was not leaving with "any regrets or unhappiness" toward the county.
"IT'S BEEN incredibly fulfilling and a tremendous privilege to work here with the people who work here," he said. "We have a high caliber of employees with the county, and the management team here is very supportive and cooperative with each other and me. I've had an outstanding relationship with the commissioners I've worked for, and that's been very rewarding."
McKenzie said he was proudest of building the county's management team "who work closely together and with the county commission." He said he was pleased with his work on the South Lawrence Trafficway and helping the county be selected as a site for a regional juvenile detention center.
McKenzie will earn $76,500 plus benefits with the League. He was earning $72,587 with the county.
Being director of the League "is a very good career step for me," McKenzie said.
"It's an opportunity to be active in another form, but a very important form, of local government in the state," he said. "I'm going to have the opportunity to be very active, not only advocating the interests of communities around the state at the state and federal level, and also provide a lot of services to those cities in helping them deliver public services efficiently and effectively.''
THE THREE county commissioners were unanimous in their praise of McKenzie.
"I think Chris has the unique ability to be objective about the issues he's dealt with over the years," said Mark Buhler, who chairs the commission. "I think he's fair and consistent. He'll be awfully hard to replace."
Mike Amyx, a commissioner since 1989, said he hated to see McKenzie go.
"A loss of a wealth of information is what we're losing and the hard work and dedication he's had has just been incredible," Amyx said.
Louie McElhaney, who also joined Amyx on the commission three years ago, agreed.
"I think Chris had done a good job for the county," he said. "He was easy to communicate with, and I felt he kept the commissioners well-informed and up-to-date on all the items he could."
McKenzie said he would like his last day to be March 4 but would leave the decision to the commission. Buhler said the commission would discuss McKenzie's last day and the search for a replacement during its meeting Monday.
BUHLER SAID the county likely would advertise the job in governmental trade publications, which could lead to a regional or national search. He said he hoped the county could hire a replacement by the summer.
McKenzie, a St. Louis native, received his bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1973. He earned a master's of urban planning from Kansas University in 1976 and a law degree from KU in 1981.
McKenzie said he plans to continue living in Lawrence. His wife, Sandra Craig McKenzie, is a KU law professor. They have two children, Andy and Katie, who attend St. John School.