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Council fills key city vacancies
Council member, interim city administrator, fire chief appointed
new deh city council luke mccormick intro pic web
Great Bend Fire Department Capt. Luke McCormick, flanked by his wife Clarissa, is introduced as the new Great Bend fire chief during Monday nights City Council meeting. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Police Chief Cliff Couch’s resignation accepted 

In addition to the appointments Monday night, the o Great Bend City Council officially accepted Couch’s resignation, which is effective Oct. 15. Under the agreement, the city will pay Couch through Oct. 15, but “he will be relieved from reporting to work immediately.”

Couch submitted his resignation last Wednesday. This announcement came just a week after he was reinstated by the council following his suspension in July.

It was a busy night Monday for the Great Bend City Councils as it filled several key positions left vacant recently as fallout from the controversy surrounding the city and now-resigned Police Chief Clifton Couch.

This marked the first council meeting in a couple months to be held at the City Office. Recent meetings have taken place at the Great Bend Events Center due to large crowds following the city/Couch matter.

Even so, there was an over-flow, but respectful, crowd packed into the council chamber Monday. 

Most of the council members wore white “I (Heart) GB” T-shirts.

Action Monday included:

• The appointment of Jolene Biggs to fill Wayne Henneke’s Ward 2 council seat. Biggs now joins fellow Ward 2 Councilman Joel Jackson.

Following Biggs’ appointment, she was sworn in by City Clerk Shawna Schafer. After this, the meeting resumed with Biggs taking her seat at head of the room.

Biggs is a Great Bend native with degrees from Barton Community College and Friends University in Wichita. Since 1994, she has been and an account executive and manager of the Great Bend Insurance Planning Inc. office.

She is married to Craig Biggs.

Henneke resigned his Ward 2 seat on  Aug. 16 in the wake of the ongoing controversy. Henneke had also served as council president, a position now held by Councilman Brock McPherson.

Henneke’s position is up for election Nov. 7, but he was not seeking reelection. Biggs is one of the candidates who filed for the post. Other candidates include Rachel E. Mawhirter and Matt Suchy.

Mayor Mike Allison at the Sept. 5 meeting named a committee included himself, Councilwoman Allene Owen and Councilman Cory Zimmerman to review and interview the four applicants for the position. This was done last week and the panel recommended Biggs.

• The appointment of George Kolb of Wichita as interim city administrator. City Attorney Bob Suelter had been acting as the short-term interim city administrator until a more long-term administrator could be found. There were two applicants.

He will start on Oct. 9 and the contract runs for six months at $2,015 per week,  Suelter said. Either party can terminate the contract with a 30-day notice should the city find a full-time administrator.

However, Suelter suggested the council wait until all the new council members take office following the Nov. 7 general election to start the search. After that, it could take  months to find the ideal fit.

The contract keeps Kolb in place until March if necessary.

Suelter said he is now trying to find a place for Kolb to live. He will be in Great Bend Sunday nights through Thursday nights.

“I want to tell you how much I was impressed with this man,” Councilman Mike Boys said. “He will be really good.”

Kolb is the former city manager for Wichita, resigning in January 2008. He started with Wichita in 2004.

Kolb has worked in municipal government for the past 30 years. Besides Kansas he has worked in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Virginia.

Most recently, he has served as the interim administrator in Valley Center and Wentzville, Mo.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Eastern Michigan University, and a master’s in public administration from the University of Michigan in 1970. He is also a graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The appointment was necessitated by the sudden Aug. 16 retirement of long-time City Administrator Howard Partington who had been with the city for 36 years. Partington cited stress caused by the flap between Couch and the city as the reason for his departure.

The search committee included Allison, Schafer, Jackson, Councilman Mike Boys and Suelter. These folks met last week as well to sift through the applicants and make a recommendation.

• The appointment of  Great Bend Fire Department Capt. Luke McCormick as the new Great Bend fire chief, replacing Mike Napolitano who retired at the end of August. 

Allison named the search committee for this job and it included Allison, Councilman Brock McPherson, Owen, former city Human Resources Director Terry Hoff and City Attorney Robert Suelter. The committee also met last week to come up a recommendation.

There were three applicants, all from within the Great Bend Fire Department. 

“All the candidates were very, very good,” Councilwoman Allene Owen said.

“It was a tough choice,” Allison said.