February 21, 2018

Something to Think About
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It's no secret that former assistant city manager Jim Witt has been trying for months to ease out of his job and return full-time to his home and his wife in Canton.

He sets target dates to leave, but we keep asking for just a few more weeks or until a certain project is completed.

One day, I fully expect him to slip away like the wind, without fanfare or notice to anyone except the city manager.

Hiring Jim Witt was one of the best moves we've made in recent years.

Jim and his business partner Ron Leupp had come to Emporia as consultants early in 2013, when we took a hard look at our city -- what it was and what we wanted it to be in the future. The pair translated our conversations into specific long-term goals and the strategies needed to reach them.

By the time we finished, we were so impressed with Jim's leadership and hands-on experience as city manager of other cities, that we asked him to stay on in city management to get us solidly on the path we'd set.

He consented, saying he'd stay 18 months to two years. That was in November 2013. After almost 4 and a half years, he's finally whittled his time down to two days a week rather than five.

But he's still here, wrapping up a number of projects and weaning us away a bit at a time.

He's spoiled us. As assistant city manager, Jim kept us on-task, hauling out the goals every quarter and keeping us on-pace.

He led the Finance Department in creating a five-year budget, to plan ahead for anticipated expenditures rather than budgeting one year at a time.

Jim shepherded us through some major projects and programs, some of which we'd not attempted before.

There's not much within city government that hasn't been piled on Jim's job plate.

-- The Rural Housing Initiative Development program that brought a boatload of new homes to the Hidden Vista neighborhood.

-- The Black and Gold District that is bringing attractive new apartments and retail businesses on the north end of Commercial Street.

-- Retail and hotel projects involving long-term negotiations for designs, infrastructure, ordinances and contracts to turn them into reality.

He's represented the city in negotiating and developing contracts and Incentive Compliance Agreements with existing industries -- and the result has been hundreds of new jobs added within the past several years.

He's supervised the city's Community Development Division, and was our primary contact as Emporia and Lyon County reached agreement on a new Comprehensive Plan.

Jim has represented city management on joint projects with the county and other major entities to share expenses and resources to operate each more efficiently and economically.

He's worked with architects, engineers and department heads on a major renovation project for the Municipal Courtroom, which outgrew its quarters a decade or two ago.

He's supervised the fire department, the police department, the city clerk, and worked closely with the city attorney on everything from ordinances to lawsuits.

There's simply not enough time to list everything that Jim has accomplished.

He's done an amazing job -- even more than we'd anticipated, and we are exceedingly grateful.

But it would short-sighted not to recognize another Witt family member. If anyone deserves a heartfelt thank-you, it's Jim's wife, Kim, back in Canton.

She's shared her husband with the City of Emporia while 18 months stretched into four years and beyond.

She's visited here, of course, and seems to like it. So maybe it's not entirely inappropriate to send her our profuse thanks along with an open invitation to both of them to make Emporia their home. Or maybe their second home. That would work, too.

And that, Kim and Jim Witt, is something to think about. 

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