Business Q & A

Five questions with Mandy Pankratz, city staffer in charge of arena parking

Mandy Pankratz’s profile has risen along with the noise level about Intrust Bank Arena parking.

Pankratz, 29, is the city staffer in charge of making sure there’s enough parking for arena events. She has spent the past six months negotiating deals with private lot owners and setting rates.

It’s the latest in a varied resume that includes competing in the Miss Kansas contest, lobbying for a casino in Dodge City, earning a master’s degree in public administration and serving in two local economic development agencies.

She is an analyst in the city’s urban development office, although she is temporarily assigned to handle the parking issue.

1. How did you become a lobbyist for the Boot Hill Casino in 2003-04?

My high school job was working at Boot Hill Museum. I did that every year through high school and college, and when I came back from college I started working for them full time on special projects. I got into the lobbying at about the same time. They were starting the push in Topeka to do legal gaming in Kansas. My relationship with Boot Hill and the fact that I had a political science degree was a natural fit, so I started working in Topeka.

2. How much fun has it been to deal with arena parking?

It’s been a challenging situation in a good way. I’ve learned an awful lot in the last six months. I think the biggest thing that has come out of these is strong partnerships. . . . To kind of make everybody feel a little more comfortable, that has always been our number one goal. To make everyone relax a little.

3. Do you think the city’s parking plan has turned out well?

I think you can’t make everybody happy all of the time. Overall, we have managed to put together a plan and a system that is really responsive and flexible. If we have challenges with certain properties and certain streets, we can make changes and adjustments.

4. Where will you park?

I am one of those people who doesn’t mind paying to park. I am going to the Jeff Dunham event in March and going with my family and plan on purchasing a parking spot in one of the closest parking lots in advance.

5. What’s the most fun about economic development?

The recruiting can be fun because it’s a game. But my favorite part was visits with the local business. I had no idea of the really cool things that happen in this community and that are made in this community. When I go out and call on a business and find out they make some microchip for some national company or Kevlar armor for the armed services, that’s so cool.

— Dan Voorhis