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A conversation with Richard LaMunyon

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, May 27, 2012, at 6:53 a.m.

When Richard LaMunyon was Wichita’s police chief, he put his children in Maize schools to protect them. That led to what he calls a close relationship with the city, but he never imagined he’d one day be its city manager.

While he was still an officer, LaMunyon earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in administration of justice.

“My speciality was administration,” he said. “Business administration. You know, budgets, things of that nature. I seemed to have a knack for … getting along with people kind of in a leadership role.”

LaMunyon retired from the police department in 1989 and became the on-site commissioner for parimutuel racing at Wichita Greyhound Park. He then worked for the Special Olympics and did consulting before accidentally winding up with a full-time job in Maize. When he started as manager, city business was conducted out of a pole barn where a road grader was kept.

Today, there’s a new City Hall building along with a fire department, EMS and a staff of about 50.

What made you want to be a policeman?

I don’t know. It could have been the last ticket I got.

I remember having a conversation with my dad. He said, “Don’t be a policeman.” He said, “Be a fireman. Everyone loves a fireman.”

Years later, the mayor of Maize called you for help with that city’s police department, right?

She called … and simply said, “Richard, can you get us a police chief? We seem to run through them up here.” … She also said, “We have some administration issues, and I’d like you to give me your opinion on that.”

Did you?

Got ’em a sharp lieutenant off the Wichita PD … and I gave them a report. And I left and went back to my Special Olympics and my consulting, and about two weeks later, she called and said, “Richard, our city clerk quit, our city treasurer quit and our new police chief’s getting ready to quit. … Will you please come up here and run our little city?”

And I said, “Yeah, I’ll do it part time,” and that was 12 years ago.

Why did you stay?

My intent was to help out the city of Maize. I’d already had a closeness there. … I saw, yes, this is a challenge. There are some distinct issues up here. … They didn’t have a lot of planning. They didn’t have a lot of organization, if you will. What it takes for a city or any organization to survive.

Why not?

They were transitioning from what I would describe as a isolationist mentality. … Some of the councils really didn’t care to grow. They wanted to be left alone. The reality of it was Maize – because of their schools, because of their location – they were going to grow. … They needed some serious plans for the future.

How were you able to make immediate changes?

(The council was) very forward thinking. They were visionaries. They understood what the past problems had been, and they wanted to move forward in a very progressive manner.

How have things changed since then?

Basically, when I took over … the geographic area of the city of Maize was less than one square mile. Currently, the city limits encompasses over nine square miles. … The future plan is the city will grow to approximately 22 square miles.

At the time, they were building a water system, and there was basically no infrastructure in terms of supporting housing (and) commercial activities. … We’ve now expanded infrastructure.

We had no active housing developments. … We currently have six active family developments … with homes that start at … $125,000, and they go up to $1 million.

When I first came up here, the assessment valuation for the entire city of Maize was $7.8 million. … Today, or at least at last count, that $7.8 million has gone to just under $29 million. It means in essence … for each mill levy, you get more money.

As you can see, we’ve had a very progressive decade. … We couldn’t have any of this without the support of council.

How does being manager compare with being chief?

You don’t have any of these midnight calls, for the most part. It’s still a challenging role. A different role. It’s something that allows you the ability to plan and see the fruits of your planning.

Is retirement once again looming for you?

I have learned that I’m not the kind of guy that’s going to retire. … If I leave here, I’m going to go into men’s ministry or something. I’m not going to retire. … This job is very satisfying.

Anything keep you up at night?

Not really, no. I sleep pretty good. I do wear out earlier.

What’s something few people know about you?

I never watch police shows on television. I just can’t quite handle ’em. They’re a little far out.

There used to be a police show on called “Barney Miller.” That was one I would watch. I really got a laugh out of that one. … Nobody ever got hurt. … It was obviously not true, but it was entertaining.

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or e-mail her at crengers@wichitaeagle.com

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