Wichita to lose city attorney, parks director

04/26/2014 7:25 AM

04/26/2014 7:26 AM

Two longtime City Hall department heads are leaving soon – one for retirement and the other for a new job with a bigger budget.

Gary Rebenstorf, 69, city attorney since 1991 and a 39-year city employee, is retiring in July.

Doug Kupper, 61, the city’s parks director for 14 years, has accepted a similar post in Oklahoma City. He begins work there in May.

Rebenstorf, a lifetime Wichita resident, will keep his law license but doesn’t plan to practice, instead focusing on volunteering and traveling in Kansas.

“It’s just time,” Rebenstorf said. “I’ve had a good career and it just looked like it was time to retire.”

Kupper inherits a $200 million parks bond issue to administer in Oklahoma City. He will run a department featuring more than 200 employees in five divisions – recreation, horticulture and gardens, grounds management, the Civic Center Music Hall and administration.

He said Oklahoma City’s willingness to spend money to improve the city’s quality of life attracted him.

“It’s a happening place and everybody seems to be on the same page,” he said. “It’s all about improving the quality of life in Oklahoma City and they understand that the better the quality of life in the High Plains the more attractive they are to new business.”

City officials said the loss of institutional knowledge from two long-time department heads will be difficult to replace.

“Gary’s breadth of knowledge in municipal law, for sure,” City Manager Robert Layton said. “He has good people in that office, though, and we can rely on them.”

Layton said Rebenstorf has been a valuable resource to his office and to the council, serving as the “umpire” while city officials sort through items that require government action.

Rebenstorf called his job one of the best in law because of the broad range of cases his office tackles, from police shootings and battles with Westar Energy on electric rates to the thorny legal issues the council must consider.

“Essentially, we are the city’s law firm,” he said.

Layton said the city will launch a search for Rebenstorf’s replacement.

Same story for Kupper, who has run Wichita’s park system for 14 years, the last seven during an era of shrinking budgets when the city launched two new parks.

“Anyone with Doug’s knowledge and history with the parks and department operations is going to be a loss,” said Bryan Frye, president of the city’s park board.

“Doug’s extremely knowledgeable and he’s been through some extremely difficult years with budgets, yet we’ve done some really great things.”

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