Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Corliss is named Lawrence’s new city manager

Leader has worked for Lawrence since 1990

September 29, 2006, 12:00 a.m. Updated September 29, 2006, 9:10 a.m.


David Corliss was named Lawrence's sixth city manager this morning during a press conference at City Hall.

City Hall press conference

Remarks by Mayor Mike Amyx and new city manager David Corliss. Enlarge video

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"We started the nationwide search from the standpoint of finding the best city manager we could find, because the citizens of Lawrence deserve no less," Mayor Mike Amyx said. "Dave Corliss' skills matched and exceeded our requirements ... in the end, David Corliss earned the job."

Corliss, 45, served as assistant city manager under Mike Wildgen, who was asked to resign by a majority of commissioners in March after serving 16 years as city manager. Corliss had served as the interim manager since then.

"I understand the trust they are placing in me, the responsibility this position bears, and the opportunity this presents to make Lawrence one of the best cities in the nation," Corliss said.

Wildgen took the same path to the top job in 1990. He had served as assistant city manager for Buford Watson Jr., who served 19 years as city manager and died in office, but had earned the ire of commissioners by last spring.

"I have a sense of urgency that we cannot continue on our current path," Corliss said, promising a top-to-bottom review of city services.

Commissioner Mike Rundle, who was perhaps Wildgen's fiercest critic on the commission, did not attend the announcement. His schedule did not allow him to attend, Amyx said.

City commissioners also considered two finalists from outside the community: R. Leon Churchill Jr., managing director of Reading, Pa.; and Dennis Taylor, city manager of Eugene, Ore.


Of the three, Corliss had the market cornered on knowledge about Lawrence. He's been a city employee since 1990, when he started as a management analyst. He was promoted to director of legal services in 1996 and promoted again in 2000 to serve as one of two assistant city managers.

"I've worked with the city for 16 years now," Corliss has previously said when asked why he applied for the job. "I know our issues and our neighborhoods and our long-term concerns. I have the dedication to see us through a number of major projects."

Corliss also has ties to Kansas University. His undergraduate degree, master's in public administration and law degree all are from KU.

Corliss was considered a Wildgen protege. That led to speculation that Corliss faced an uphill battle landing the job because three of the five commissioners had asked Wildgen to resign because of concerns over inadequate planning for growth and maintaining the city's infrastructure.

But when Corliss was named interim city manager in March, he began tackling several of the city's larger problems. The city was embroiled in a controversy over its perceived inability to provide sewer service to new developments in northwest neighborhoods. By early April, Corliss and his staff introduced a plan to install new infrastructure in the area. Previously stalled development plans began moving again.

Corliss also made significant changes to the city's budgeting process. Some commissioners had criticized Wildgen for not providing budget choices in a clear enough manner. Corliss provided voluminous information during this year's process and was roundly applauded by commissioners for his efforts.

Just hours after taking over as interim city manager, Corliss also successfully guided city operations to deal with damage brought by a microburst that left many residents without power, their homes damaged and trees decimated throughout the city.

Lawrence's previous city managers

Previous city managers and the time they served: ¢ James Wigglesworth, 1951-57 ¢ Harold Horn, 1957-64 ¢ Ray Wells, 1964-69 ¢ Buford Watson Jr., 1970-89 ¢ Mike Wildgen, 1990-2006


gontek 11 years, 2 months ago

Corliss will be an outstanding City manager, Lawrence is lucky. Any city would be lucky to have him as an administrator.

Sigmund 11 years, 2 months ago

Zero growth wasn't so much a early 'rap" as it was a campaign platform for the PLC. If your asking me to believe that the PLC is pro-contruction and development I can only conclude that you are a Bozo.

John Myers 11 years, 2 months ago

A nationwide search and the "best" candidate just happened to be the assistant to the previous holder of the position? I have a hard time believing that there's not another interested person more qualified in the whole US of A.

cmokeman 11 years, 2 months ago

Construction is the second largest industry in Lawrence. And despite the early rap that Progressive Lawrence candidtates would be anti-growth, they have been careful not to interfere dramatically with the building boom in Lawrence (Wal-Mart not withstanding). Ever wonder who contributes to the Progressive Lawrence coffers?

Michael McClain 11 years, 2 months ago

And how much did this cost us to decide to hire from within? Next time the city needs a study or consultation, why don't they hire someone from Lawrence to do it so the money stays in the city! My fees are reasonable!

cmokeman 11 years, 2 months ago

Not a big fan of the freedom of speech, mom_of_three?

bunnyhawk 11 years, 2 months ago

gosh........showed Wildgen the door...........but I guess we didn't really want anything to change.........just the same old same old taking care of the well heeleds' neighborhoods and letting the older neighborhoods go to heck in a handcart....... have we already forgotten about that poor boy who was killed at 2nd and Locust because of Wildgen and Corliss' neglect of the older and poorer parts of our city???????? VERY DISAPPOINTING DECISION!!!!! but not at all suprising

Laura Watkins 11 years, 2 months ago

I think that better qualified candidates would have stayed, or better yet, wouldn't have taken themselves out of the running, if the city had picked a better group of headhunters. In fact....I know so.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 2 months ago

The LJW certainly appeared as though Dennis Taylor was not their choice.

canyon_wren 11 years, 2 months ago

I don't know anything about Corliss, but it always seems so ridiculous to "make a search," whether for City Manager or university chancellor, etc., and then go with the local guy whom they knew they would pick all along. I imagine the local guy has to be PRETTY BAD to NOT get picked--and if he were, he would not have been allowed to be "interim" (I would think). But what a farce--and what a waste of taxpayers' money. Unless, of course, it is ILLEGAL to just go with the local guy without searching?

mom_of_three 11 years, 2 months ago

There wasn't too many candidates to start with, because, evidently, nobody wants to move here in the middle of the country.

And if we don't like what our city commission does, then by all means, run for it yourself, and try to make a difference. Complaining won't make matters any better.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 2 months ago

Speculation: It is Corliss on a 4-1. There may have been one or two who would like to see Lawrence go outside the box.

Not because Dave Corliss cannot do the job. Yep he can do the job. From my perspective it would have been either Corliss or Taylor.

cmokeman 11 years, 2 months ago

Why's that, gontek? Do you like tax increases and rampant, unimaginative development?

gontek 11 years, 2 months ago

Windgen was the City Manager for a long time, which is unusual for that type of position. I think he took the blame for a lot of things that seemed to go wrong, and for him. Problems existed in the planning department leadership and the utilities director had just retired.

If the census doesn't change it's estimates then these reasons quoted could go up in smoke. However, Corliss knows city government like the back of his hand. I don't need to provide reasons, examples, or first hand knowledge of experience working with him at the city.

I know that from time to time change is good in government. A lot of people will probably cry foul because this was an internal hire and corliss was a "Wildgen protege", but so what. He is very different, he knows public admin, he knows the laws, and he knows Lawrence, and he obviously loves what he does.

The bottom line, I think the LJW loves to stir up controversy with their spin on city government. If you really were involved, you would see how upstanding both Wildgen and Corliss are, and how well the city staff do their jobs, for the most part.

Hawkman 11 years, 2 months ago

Dave did more in his term as "acting" city manager than Wildgen did his entire tenure......during MW's time our entire infrastructure was falling apart and he just kept fiddlin'. You go, Dave!!

lunacydetector 11 years, 2 months ago

plumberscrack, why take out the anger towards your friends on the commish out on me? you mention my black skin. why should this matter to you? perhaps a conservative black man doesn't fit your stereotype. i have never stated otherwise.

so your friends on the commish picked wildgen after a lengthy and costly to the taxpayer's search. what else is new? they had to make it 'appear' they tried.

gontek 11 years, 2 months ago

"commissioners had asked Wildgen to resign because of concerns over inadequate planning for growth and maintaining the city's infrastructure."

"perceived inability to provide sewer service to new developments in northwest neighborhoods"

Hindsight is 2020. Things are not always as crystal clear in the present as they may seem.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 2 months ago

well lets just give it time and maybe be surpised. but please no one hold your breath ok.

cmokeman 11 years, 2 months ago

What makes you think I'm not involved, gontek? Just because I don't work for the city, like you apparently do, doesn't mean I can't have an opinion regarding the direction this city has taken in recent years.

Sigmund 11 years, 2 months ago

Stop the presses! Wildgren was fired by Rundle because he cost developers lots of money?!?!? You mean the PLC Kommissioners are in the back pocket of Big Developers AND Fat Cat Downtown Landlords?!?!?! Next you'll tell me Carl Rove owns a majority share in the Merc and that Dick Cheney's Haliburton is going to make millions building a new library. This explains all those black helicopters.

BTW, what business is it of anyone what the skin color is of posters here? How ignorant and bankrupt intellectually do you have to be to make it an issue with someone who disagrees with you? What little respect I had for that person who did that vanished.

kujeeper 11 years, 2 months ago

So sad and frustrating....We have replaced the problem with an understudy of the problem. We need someone fresh with a proven track record.

Now we need to get these people off the commission and replace them with commissioners with a sound business mind who don't want to waste money on homeless shelters and overpriced pieces of artwork!

cmokeman 11 years, 2 months ago

Yet another poor decision by the Lawrence city commission. All that work and it turns out that the best person for the job in ALL the country just happened to already be in the job? They would have been better off keeping Wildgen. How about someone with a real vision for Lawrence that doesn't include turning us into anytown in Johnson County?

cmokeman 11 years, 2 months ago

Wildgen was fired for costing developers money, which should tell you a lot about who actually makes decisions regarding growth and development in Lawrence.

not_dolph 11 years, 2 months ago

Was there any question that it would not be Corliss?

bankboy119 11 years, 2 months ago

"Corliss was considered a Wildgen protege. "

And that's a good thing?

"Corliss also made significant changes to the city's budgeting process."

Did he help orchestrate the 1% increase in taxes? Great government policy as usual. Don't worry about balancing what they've got, they'll just take more from the people.

lunacydetector 11 years, 2 months ago

yesterday, plumberscrack already confirmed it was corliss as the pick. did corliss go to law school with the boog?

lunacydetector 11 years, 2 months ago

virgin microbes of air, Zimzim Urallala Zimzim we have a new city manager......

..........WHEREAS: The central message of Dada is the realization that reason and anti-reason, sense and nonsense, design and chance, consciousness and unconsciousness, belong together as necessary parts of a whole; and

WHEREAS: Dada is a virgin microbe that penetrates with the insistence of air into all those spaces that reason has failed to fill with words and conventions; and

WHEREAS: zimzim urallala zimzim urallala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Dennis Highberger, Mayor of the City of Lawrence, Kansas, do hereby proclaim the [thirteen randomly chosen days from February to October] as "International Dadaism Month."

Zimzim Urallala Zimzimmark

cmokeman 11 years, 2 months ago

I believe the term was "smart growth". And if you think the Progressive Lawrence commissioners can and do ignore the wishes of the building industry in Lawrence, then I think the only logical conclusion to come to is that you are the Bozo.

Michael Stanclift 11 years, 2 months ago

Reality_Check, perhaps you need to the article before posting next time? Corliss did infact move up, about every 5 years.

1990 hired as a management analyst 1996 promoted to director of legal services 2000 promoted to asst city manager 2006 promoted to city manager

gontek 11 years, 2 months ago

I think a lot of people get most of their information from the LJWorld and various forums, which paints a skewed picture.

If you follow commission meetings and go to the city's website for information and read the agendas and documents, then you are probably very well informed and involved. If you get all of your info from the LJWorld then you are probably not very well informed.

These are my opinions, nobody has to agree.

jafs 11 years, 2 months ago

I don't know much about Mr. Corliss, but I spoke with him on the phone for a short time, and found him to be intelligent, articulate, and basically in agreement with my perspective on Lawrence. Let's see how he does before rushing to judgement.

Kontum1972 11 years, 2 months ago

..............."DROP THE BOMB NOW"............

..............."THE DECIDER"..............

................"THE UNDECIDER".........

..............."PLZ RAISE THE WATER BILL AGAIN".......


11 years, 2 months ago

Is the LJW going to help the poor schmuck in Eugene find a job after "outing" him & putting his current job in jeopardy?

gontek 11 years, 2 months ago

LJW was just clamoring for the names of the candidates, you could just see it in their articles, reading between the lines.

The commissioners should have never bowed to the JLWorld pressure to release the names. It could have been a factor in the decision. It is definitely a turn off to find your new bosses lied to you before you even get an offer. Who would take a job after that?

cutny 11 years, 2 months ago

What does this "job" really entail anyway? Sounds like the government cake walk to me. Jeez, the peanut gallery is in a real frenzy today.

Laura Watkins 11 years, 2 months ago

Sorry...but if the guy was a finalist, he should have told Eugene himself. It serves him right to have been "outed" by the LJWorld. That's completely unprofessional.

shorttrees 11 years, 2 months ago

So the question should be, "who leaked the finalists' names to the LJW"? Who had something to benefit by doing that?

KS 11 years, 2 months ago

lunacydetector - I didn't know you were black. I just thought you were conservative. I guess to some people that is an oxymoron. Sorry, but I enjoy reading your postings.

Sigmund 11 years, 2 months ago

Gosh, I thought I was being generous with 'zero growth', but if you insist upon 'smart growth' that iis in effect negative growth (at least according to the census) then so be it. Regardless, I find it difficult to believe the PLC Kommissioners will run on the platform "construction and development friedly." Well I guess they might at least to get elected. And with respect to their opposition to Walmat, if you are suggesting that they opposed it not out of being anti-growth but to protect the Merc where two of the three Kommissioners get their income, I'd have to agree.

nekansan 11 years, 2 months ago

So Wildgren was fired essentiall for poor planning on the sewer infrastructure. So lets offer the job to the guy who was his assistant?

lunacydetector 11 years, 2 months ago

wldgen was a patsy. please don't rewrite history folks. the commission knew the sewers were inadequate for a few years before they became an issue.

lunacydetector 11 years, 2 months ago

patsy: a person upon whom the blame for something falls; scapegoat; fall guy.

.....just in case some of you didn't know the definition.

davisnin 11 years, 2 months ago

Residents of The City of West Lawrence poo? I thought they hired people to do that. Why would they need sewers? They should save it up, dry it out, and build their precious SLT with it.

bjamnjm 11 years, 2 months ago

Corliss is a jerk. He and I used to be friends and we went to church together. He turned out to be a complete jerk. He is one of maybe a few people I've ever met that I regret expending the energy to have been his friend. What a bummer for Lawrence. What a jerk.

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