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Hathcock to leave Barton County
Commission praises him for service, dedication
Barton County Solid Waste Director Phil Hathcock addresses the County Commission Wednesday morning. He has announced he is leaving the county for a job in his Virginia hometown with his last day being Friday. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

In what became an emotional farewell and tribute, the Barton County Commission reluctantly Wednesday morning announced that Phil Hathcock, long-time solid waste director an one-time county administrator was leaving the county.

He has taken a job in his hometown of Stafford, Va., as a solid waste director there. His last day is Friday.

“It was very difficult to leave,” Hathcock said. “I really appreciated all of the support I’ve had here from all the department heads and staff, and enjoyed serving the public here and you know, that made it a very hard decision to leave.”

“Barton County owes you a debt of gratitude, sir,” said commission Chairman Shawn Hutchinson. “You’ve always been the go-to guy. You’ve always stepped up when needed in every single way possible.”

As a new commissioner, Hutchinson said he learned a lot from Hathcock. “You’ve been invaluable to me. You’re going to be highly missed by all.”

“I’ve worked with you for the last five years on the recycling side,” said District 4 Commissioner Jon Prescott. He is the former executive director of Sunflower Diversified Services which sponsors a recycling program. “You’ve taught me so much and I learned that Barton County as a leader and recycling.”

Barton County Landfill Office Manager Jennifer Hamby will fill in during the interim. She has worked at the facility for almost 13 years and has earned her manager of operations certification for the landfill.

“She has been invaluable to me at the landfill, helping me when I’m not there,” Hathcock said. “I believe she’ll do an excellent job.” 

She’s been through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment inspections and is familiar with the regulations, and the staff respects her, he said. “I think I’m leaving it in good hands.” 

Commissioners said they have heard many comments from the public about how easy the landfill staff was to work with, noting it was Hathcock’s leadership that sets the tone.

Hathcock has been with the county for eight years, having also served as operations director from May 2017 to April 2018 after the resignation of County Administrator Richard Boeckman, and county administrator from April 2018 through August 2021.

In addition to solid waste director, he also currently holds the title as facilities director.

Other praises

“I don’t know of any other employee who has done as many jobs and genuinely cares about the people of Barton County,” said District 2 Commissioner Barb Esfeld. “We won’t be able to replace you.”

“His presence and support was already there before COVID,” said an emotional Health Director Karen Winkelman. But,in March 2020, the pandemic was in full force.

“From that point on, we were in the massive amount of COVID work that was to be done,” she said. “Along with his duties as county administrator, he provided stability and a foundation during a very critical time.”

There were many fears and unknowns. “He alleviated those fears to a manageable level for us and allowed us to focus on public health and what we needed to do. He has a gift of serving others unselfishly. He’s helped us in time of need, no matter how great or how small those things were.”

The lessons she left with was to be positive, take the high road and keep puttingg your best foot forward.

Communications Director Dena Popp said she worked with Hathcock in the Barton County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Officer Program.

“He has brought us together with so many other departments ... that is a bond between us that never existed. That’s something he created,” Popp said, her voice quivering. “I will miss him and I thank him for his dedication to us. “

Sheriff Brian Bellendir recalled a homicide crime scene on a stormy night. “We’re looking at each other in this driving rain going “what the hell are we doing? Thank you for your service Phil.”