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