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HaysUG Administrator Dennis Hays announced his retirement at the UG meeting Aug. 1 at City Hall. (Staff photo)
Unified Government Administrator Dennis Hays announced his retirement at tonight's UG Commission meeting.
With his voice breaking at times, Hays, the only administrator the Unified Government has ever had, read his resignation statement. He said he has been eligible for retirement for some time, and planned to retire next March.
Hays shepherded the Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County governments as they combined into a Unified Government in 1997. He led the government through rebuilding years, when Village West was constructed and large-scale growth occurred in western Kansas City, Kan.
Hays was named the top administrator in Kansas, receiving the Buford T. Watson Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Management in February 2013 from the Kansas Association of City-County Management.
The Unified Government, with a new mayor and four new commissioners elected this spring, will have a new administrator next spring.
Hays said he was waiting for the new mayor and commission to pass this year's budget before announcing his retirement.
"It seems appropriate to make this announcement as we conclude the 2014 budget which represents now 30 years of annual budgets which I have actively participated in through the administrator's office," Hays said.
Mayor Mark Holland said a national search will be made for an administrator. A notice for a search firm will be published on Friday, Aug. 2, with the search firm application deadline of Aug. 19. The process involves a recruitment and selection consultant selected in September, advertisement and recruitment of the position from October to December, narrowing the finalists in January, reviewing and interviewing finalists, followed by a new administrator appointment by the mayor in February. No interim administrator will be appointed, as Hays said he would stay until a new administrator is named. The commission must consent to the appointment, the mayor said.
"Our community has witnessed incredible progress in the last 16 years under Dennis' management," Mayor Holland said. "During his tenure we consolidated our government and experienced significant expansion to our economic development base, despite a recession. Our community is incredibly grateful for Dennis' service and we wish him and his family all the best."
As Hays announced his retirement, there was some crying from long-time staff members in the audience. The audience of about 40 gave him a standing ovation at the end of his announcement.
Before becoming the UG administrator in 1997, Hays was the city administrator of Kansas City, Kan., beginning in 1996. He served as assistant city administrator, deputy city administrator and interim city administrator from 1983 to 1995. From 1976 to 1983, he was the assistant director of the Kansas City, Kan., Community Development Department.
Hays said he planned to retire in Kansas City, Kan., enjoying family life.
Commissioner Brian McKiernan said Hays had set the bar very high. He was never afraid to make a tough decision, and that is to be commended, McKiernan said.
Commissioner Hal Walker, a former UG chief attorney who goes back to 1979 with the city, said Hays has been fair, honorable and done what he could for the community.
Hays made tough decisions and had to deal with difficult people sometimes, Walker said. "You made it all seem easy."
"He has earned without a shadow of a doubt the right to step down on his own terms," Mayor Holland said.