Fairway votes to strengthen role of city administrator as it searches for replacement

Fairway’s next city administrator will have a different set of responsibilities than Kate Gunja, who’s leaving the job Dec. 12 to take a position in Prairie Village.

After Gunja announced her resignation, the city’s administration committee met and determined that the time had come to reconfigure Fairway’s organizational structure. Unlike many of the surrounding communities, Fairway’s department heads do not report directly to the city administrator.

The committee recommended having the next city administrator serve as both the chief administrative and chief financial officer, and have the person report directly to the mayor. Additionally, all the city’s department heads will now report to the city administrator; this includes the chief of police, director of public works and director of parks and recreation.

Under the new structure, the mayor will still have the power to appoint department heads, who must be confirmed by the city council, but the city administrator would have a role in recommending the candidate for appointment.

Fairway’s council met Wednesday and voted unanimously to approve the ordinance that reconfigures the city administrator’s role, as well as ordinances that give the council the power to split the duties of the city administrator and the city clerk in the future (the city plans to continue to have one person serve as both city administrator and city clerk at present).

Though both council and staff expressed some concerns with the changes, there was broad consensus that the restructuring was the best move for the city.

“Looking back on my 12 years here, I can think of several occasions where it would have benefited staff and council to have a strong city administrator,” said Fairway parks and recreation director Nathan Nogelmeier. “I think it’s the way to move forward. But it’s change. And that’s always hard.”

The city hopes to post the city administrator position Monday, Nov. 25.