Politics & Government

Public Q&A with county manager pick Tom Stolz set for Wednesday

The Wichita Eagle

The public will have a chance to ask questions of and learn more about the Sedgwick County Comission’s pick for county manager, Tom Stolz, during a meeting at the Sedgwick County Zoo on Wednesday evening.

The commission last week voted 5-0 to appoint Stolz to the role without holding a national job search, saying he was the best man for the job and a search would waste time and taxpayer money. The county manager is the highest unelected position in Sedgwick County government.

Stolz has been serving as interim county manager since the man who formerly held the job, Michael Scholes, was forced out in December. Some commissioners have suggested Stolz should have been chosen over Scholes in 2015. Back then, he was one of four finalists for the position.

Scholes resigned Nov. 30 in exchange for a $205,427 settlement. His controversial tenure included employee complaints about his management style and reports that he told county staff to falsify a personnel record to benefit a friend and misused county resources.

Wednesday’s meeting will run from 5 to 6 p.m. at the zoo’s Cargill Learning Center, 5555 Zoo Blvd. Commissioners are planning to meet with the public, according to a news release. Stolz also will be there to “share his insights on moving Sedgwick County forward and take questions,” the release said.

The county did not host a public question-and-answer forum for finalists during its 2015 search.

Stolz’s appointment is pending contract negotiations. A vote to approve the contract could come as soon as this week.

During last week’s commission meeting, Jim Howell was the only commissioner to raise concerns about hiring Stolz without conducting a search, while at the same time praising his qualifications and experience.

Stolz said he wouldn’t have been opposed to the process. He has been perceived as a favorite of county employees and commissioners.

“This is an important decision for Sedgwick County and our community and as Commissioners we welcome the chance to discuss why we believe Tom Stolz is the right person for County Manager,” Commission Chairman David Dennis said in the county’s news release.

“It became clear in the discussion that Tom has earned the respect and support of the Commissioners. It was also clear from community and staff input over the past weeks and as a top candidate during the search process three years ago, that Tom has earned the respect and support of County staff, community leaders and anyone who has worked with him.”

Stolz joined the county in 2016 after a retiring from a 31-year career with the Wichita Police Department. In addition to serving as interim county manager, he’s also been deputy county manager and the assistant county manager of public safety, code enforcement and emergency management.

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Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.

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