Osterhaus issues statement on his vote to end contract with County Manager, says vision for the future was key factor in decision

County Commissioner Jason Osterhaus and Rep. Kevin Yoder toured the Johnson County Museum earlier this year.
County Commissioner Jason Osterhaus and Rep. Kevin Yoder toured the Johnson County Museum earlier this year.

4th District County Commissioner Jason Osterhaus on Sunday broke his silence regarding his vote to end award-winning County Manager Hannes Zacharias’s contract, saying that a desire to prepare Johnson County for the future factored heavily into his decision. The full statement he issued explaining his vote is below:

Friends,

I apologize for not issuing my thoughts sooner; but my volunteer duties on the Shawnee Trails Boy Scout Nominating Committee and a trip to Benedictine College kept me from doing so. I hope that my response provides clarification and understanding of my decision.

As a Commissioner, it is my duty and responsibility to vote according to what I believe to be best for the citizens of the 4 th district and for Johnson County. I take this commitment very seriously by carefully weighing the pros and cons of every vote I submit. The following reasons are why I voted not to renew Hannes’ contract.

    • Vision​ ​for​ ​the​ ​future.​ As Commissioner, I am tasked not with just looking year-to-year, but also 5, 10, or 20 years into the future. With our population growing every year, it is my opinion that we have to look at new data-driven solutions in order to keep Johnson County a great place to live, work, and raise a family. Take transit for example: In a world where Uber and Lyft are changing the way we get people from one place to another, we have to look to these new innovations to change how we do business.
    • Use​ ​of​ ​Eminent​ ​domain​ ​and​ ​how​ ​we​ ​treat​ ​our​ ​citizens.​ I have always supported personal property rights when it involves taking someone’s home. So when it was proposed to use eminent domain to obtain property for the new court house parking lot earlier this year, I was one of the votes against using it. Below are some links to various media sources that speak to those issues.

• Frustration surfaces as some Olathe residents are forced from home as JoCo. uses eminent domain to make room for parking

• Johnson County buys homes to turn into parking spaces

• This Olathe neighborhood isn’t paradise, but Johnson County is paving it to put up a parking lot

  • Conversations​ ​with​ ​county​ ​staff.​ In my time as Commissioner, I have had the pleasure of working with many of our nearly 4,000 employees. From our executive team to those on the front lines, many of them feel comfortable sharing with me their thoughts on the county. Some of them expressed a desire for a different direction moving forward. The opinions of the county staff are of great value to me in understanding how management decisions help or hinder the great work that they do daily for the citizens of Johnson County.

I accept and understand that there are differing opinions on this matter. I hope this provides some clarity as to the reasons for my vote on Thursday. No matter how difficult a vote is, I try to make the best decisions for the citizens of the 4th District and all of Johnson County.

3rd District Commissioner Steve Klika has not responded to multiple requests for comment from the Shawnee Mission Post on his decision to vote to end Zacharias’s contract.

On Friday, a group of county employees penned a letter saying they were shocked by the commissioner’s decision to oust Zacharias, noting that he has a “vision for county government is one of fairness, safety, good stewardship, progress, communication and participation.”