City Commission names three finalists for city manager vacancy

The Lawrence City Commission released Tuesday night the names of three finalists for the vacant city manager position.

The finalists are: Roderick “Rod” Bremby of Glastonbury, Conn.; Cheryl Harrison-Lee of Gardner, Kan.; and Thomas “Tom” Markus of Iowa City, Iowa.

Bremby is a commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Social Services. Harrison-Lee is the city administrator of Gardner, and Markus is the city manager of Iowa City.

“I can’t say enough about the really, really good people who have opted to step up and ask to go through the process,” Mayor Mike Amyx said. “We had quite a bit of discussion, and there are truly three names that rose to the top.”

Amyx released the names at the end of Tuesday’s City Commission meeting.

Also at the meeting, commissioners unanimously directed Greg Nelson, a consultant with Ralph Andersen & Associates, to arrange for the candidates to come to Lawrence for final interviews. Ralph Andersen & Associates is the firm the city hired to search for the next city manager.

Finalists will meet with department directors and city manager staff and take a tour of city facilities on Thursday, Dec. 17. Also that day, there will be a public reception at which Lawrence residents can meet with the finalists. The reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St.

The following day, Dec. 18, city commissioners will hold final interviews with the candidates in a closed executive session.

It’s not yet sure when a new city manager will be selected. Amyx said a start date would be part of negotiations with whomever city commissioners choose.

“We’re still a ways away from that,” he said. “We still have a lot of process to get through.”

According to his biography on the Connecticut Department of Social Services website, Bremby served from 2003 to 2010 as the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Former Governor Kathleen Sebelius appointed him. Prior to that, he was an assistant research professor at Kansas University from 2000 to 2003, and he was Lawrence’s assistant city manager from 1990 to 2000.

He graduated from KU with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

According to Harrison-Lee’s biography on the city of Gardner’s website, she started her career in municipal government in 1984 in Gainesville, Fla. She earned degrees from the University of Florida and University of South Carolina and has served in the local governments of Orlando, Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach — all in Florida.

Harrison-Lee has been Gardner’s city administrator since 2012. Gardner has a population of about 21,000, according to 2014 census estimates.

Markus was the city manager of Birmingham, Mich. for more than 20 years before being named city manager of Iowa City in 2010, according to an article from Iowa City television station KCGR.

According to a profile from the Iowa City/County Management Association, Markus has degrees from Minnesota State University and Roosevelt University. He started working in municipal government in 1973.

Census estimates from 2014 show Iowa City has a population of about 74,000.

A total of 54 people applied for Lawrence’s city manager position, which was left vacant when former City Manager David Corliss resigned to become the town manager of Castle Rock, Colo. Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard has served as city manager in an interim role since June 1.

During a two-hour executive session Oct. 13, commissioners narrowed the pool of candidates to eight.

Commissioners selected the three finalists after interviewing the eight during an all-day executive session Nov. 8.

In other business:

Commissioners unanimously approved an estimated $2.335 million in road improvement projects for Bob Billings Parkway in 2016 — about $85,000 more than was budgeted.

Public Works Director Chuck Soules said a better estimate would be brought back to commissioners this spring when the project is in the design process. If it goes over budget, the extra funding would come out of the infrastructure sales tax.

As part of the improvements, the City Commission unanimously voted to have a traffic light — and not a roundabout — installed at the intersection of Bob Billings Parkway and the south leg of Inverness Drive.

Commissioners also unanimously voted to install a traffic signal at the intersection of Bob Billings Parkway and Bobwhite Drive. City staff had suggested placing only a pedestrian hybrid beacon at that intersection for a total $80,000. The traffic signal will cost approximately $350,000.

Other projects are: a mill and overlay; adding left- and right-turn lanes; improving sight distance at one intersection; and adding a sidewalk on the south side of the street.

City Engineer Dave Cronin said the improvements were needed because of the upcoming opening of the interchange at Kansas Highway 10 and Bob Billings Parkway, which is expected to increase traffic on the road.

Commissioners also:

Unanimously adopted a franchise agreement with Black Hills Energy that allows the company to construct, use and maintain natural gas service lines in the city’s right-of way. When implemented Jan. 1, the agreement will cause an annual increase of $0.68 for residential customers.

Received the 2015 Retail Market Report prepared by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department. The report shows there are 82 businesses in downtown Lawrence that are categorized as “retail.” That’s down from 116 in 2012 and 126 in 2006. The number of bars and restaurants and other nonretail businesses in downtown Lawrence is up. Commissioners plan to hold a study session on the report after the first of the year.

Unanimously approved issuing a liquor license to Lawrence’s largest movie theater, Regal Southwest Stadium 12.