Following four county commissioners’ rejection of an attempt to reinstate ousted County Manager Hannes Zacharias’s contract Thursday morning, the board named current Deputy County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson as interim county manager effective Jan. 1.
The board of county commissioners took up the appointment of Postoak Ferguson in an executive session following the public meeting that saw more than a dozen county residents and employees lobby for Zacharias to remain as the county’s top administrative staffer.
Postoak Ferguson has been the deputy county manager since 2012. Prior to that, she served as Johnson County’s assistant county manager. A Lawrence, Kan., native who holds degrees in business and public administration from the University of Kansas, Postoak Ferguson held positions with the city of San Antonio, Tex., and Overland Park prior to joining Johnson County government. A member of the Choctaw Tribe of Oklahoma, she also attended college at Haskell Indian Nations University.
Following the vote to appoint her as interim, County Commission Chair Ed Eilert, who worked with her in Overland Park during his time as the city’s mayor, praised Postoak Ferguson.
“I’ve worked with Ms. Postoak Ferguson at the city level as well as in her current position as deputy county manager and I have every confidence that she will be able to bring the continuity and leadership that will maintain our community as a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Eilert said. “In addition to her demonstrated talent, she is very well-respected within her profession. I look forward to the important work that must be accomplished and she has my full support.”
While Postoak Ferguson represents an appointment that will bring some stability to county government in the wake of Zacharias’s unexpected ouster, the next steps for establishing the process to find a full-term county manager are unclear. The commission has reportedly not set a timeline for naming a new county manager, and the search process may be made more difficult by the upcoming election cycle, which will see four of the seats on the commission — the 1st District seat held by Ron Shaffer; the 4th District seat held by Jason Osterhaus; the 5th District seat held by Michael Ashcraft; and the chair’s seat held by Ed Eilert — on next year’s ballot.