Declining to give specifics, County Commissioner Mike Brown says desire for ‘change in vision’ prompted vote against Zacharias

Commissioner Mike Brown
Commissioner Mike Brown

County Commissioner Mike Brown, whose 6th District covers Olathe, Gardner and much of western Johnson County, said a dissatisfaction with County Manager Hannes Zacharias’s vision for county government factored prominently into his decision to vote against extending his contract.

Brown, like 5th District Commissioner Michael Ashcraft, did not offer specifics on policy, programming or management issues that prompted their decision to vote against the award-winning city manager. But he did say he had communicated frustrations with the direction of the county government under Zacharias’s leadership for some time.

“I have been clear and transparent with the county manager for months,” he said. “There were parts of county government that I believe needed a new direction, and I didn’t think we were making strides in that direction.”

Like Ashcraft, Brown said that there were no issues with Zacharias’s professionalism.

“I can tell you that with Mr. Zacharias, my vote not to retain him had nothing to do with his integrity, honesty or work ethic in any way,” Brown said. “I simply believe that it is time now for a change in vision. We are good in Johnson County. But I think we have the opportunity to become great.”

Pressed for specifics on what parts of county government were not satisfactory to him under Zacharias’s leadership, Brown repeatedly declined, saying only that “as a county commissioner I have information that is not public information.”

Brown, a contractor who lives in Olathe, defeated incumbent John Toplikar in the November 2016 election to take the 6th District seat. During the campaign, Toplikar has stressed the need for the county to focus on providing services for seniors and the mentally ill while Brown focused his messaging on spurring business development.

In a statement issued Thursday night, Zacharias said he believed the vote not to renew his contract was motivated by the four-commissioner majority’s desire “to take Johnson County in a more fiscally and socially conservative direction, impose more direct oversight by the commission over county operations, and adopt a more ‘laissez-faire’ attitude toward regulation.”

Commissioners Steve Klika and Jason Osterhaus, who also voted to oust Zacharias, have not responded to the Shawnee Mission Post’s interview requests.