In a message issued to the media Thursday night hours after four members of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners stunned county employees by voting not to renew his contract, County Manager Hannes Zacharias said it was his understanding that a desire to reduce regulations and move the county in a more socially and fiscally conservative direction prompted the move.
Zacharias’s full statement is below:
A majority of the Johnson County Commission has voted to not renew my contract to serve as County Manager, effective Dec. 31, 2017. As all managers know, this is their right. As expressed to me, the majority wants 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. Although this governmental decision runs somewhat contrary to the County Charter, I respect it.
I want to use this space, however, to say thank you to the citizens of Johnson County, the governing body members, and the more than 4,000 employees I have had the pleasure to serve with these past 16 years. Together, we steered the Johnson County community through the worst recession in memory, reducing staff by 12 percent and ongoing expenses by $47 million — all the while maintaining an inspired workforce and increasing citizen satisfaction, as measured by the ETC Institute, the Olathe-based company that conducts annual county-wide surveys. During my tenure, we have added more libraries and parks, opened the Arts and Heritage Center, added to the county trail system, passed a sales tax to replace the outdated courthouse and medical examiner facility, and planned for the replacement of the Tomahawk wastewater facility. These are some of the largest undertakings in the county’s history.
On my watch as county manager, we have integrated services for vulnerable populations, made our mental health services more robust, and have maintained Johnson County as the healthiest county in the state. We have integrated our criminal justice system and are inventing ways to reduce pre-trial incarceration, which makes our system the envy of much of the country. We are national award winners in virtually every area of county government and have received the trust and confidence of county residents, who routinely rate us at 95 percent or above in citizen satisfaction polls. It’s no secret that Johnson County sets the standard nationally. We have done so while maintaining coveted AAA bond ratings and the lowest mill levy of any county in Kansas. By virtually all measures, Johnson County ranks in the top 1 percent of all counties in the United States.
I am most proud of the culture our organization has fostered. County staff is focused on doing the right thing, for the right reason, for the public good. It is an organization dedicated to public service, striving for constant improvement, and living the Athenian oath: to leave this community better than we found it. As I leave this position, I certainly hope that I have lived up to this standard.
I love Johnson County and the Kansas City region. I am sorry that, come Dec. 31, I will not be able to lead the outstanding county workforce in delivering the award-winning services Johnson County residents want and deserve. Until then, I intend to complete my duties and assist in the orderly transition to another manager.
My hope is that I can express my passion and talents to help this region and Johnson County prosper and grow in some other capacity come Dec. 31. Thank you for the privilege to serve.