Mayor Tyrone Garner on Thursday named Cheryl Harrison-Lee to be the interim Unified Government administrator, through April 1, 2023.
Harrison-Lee will fill the temporary post vacated by former Administrator Doug Bach, who retired effective Jan. 6. Bach announced his retirement on Dec. 29. Deputy Administrator Alan Howze served as interim administrator on Thursday night.
Harrison-Lee’s appointment was approved by a unanimous vote of the UG Commission Thursday night.
She will become the first interim UG administrator who is a person of color and a woman, according to Garner.
She has extensive experience as a municipal administrator in Florida and also served as city administrator of Gardner, Kansas, he said.
Harrison-Lee is currently vice chair of the Kansas Board of Regents.
Garner said he selected Harrison-Lee because of her qualifications and his belief that this appointment is what Wyandotte County needs at this time to address some of the needs in the community, including addressing taxes, and investing in disinvested parts of the community.
According to her biography on the Board of Regents’ website, Harrison-Lee is CEO of HLDC, a management consulting firm. She served as chief technical adviser for the city of Kansas City, Missouri, working on the central city sales tax.
She also was executive director for the Kansas Office of Recovery, and was in charge of distributing federal CARES Act funding to local communities.
UG commissioners spoke in favor of Harrison-Lee’s appointment.
Commissioner Christian Ramirez said it is a historic moment for Wyandotte County, a first female interim county administrator and the first interim administrator who is a person of color.
Commissioner Mike Kane said he supports the appointment because of excellent recommendations from Gardner officials.
Commissioner Melissa Bynum also asked about getting a copy of the interim administrator’s contract, and Commissioner Gayle Townsend was interested in a procedural question and if there were plans to conduct a national search for a permanent administrator.
Misty Brown, chief legal counsel, said in the past, mayors have negotiated and signed contracts with the administrator. The administrator reports directly to the mayor. The contract will be provided to commissioners after it has been negotiated, she said.
Mayor Garner said he was impressed by Harrison-Lee’s resume and qualifications and her desire to provide servant leadership.
He said it was “premature” to talk about the long term. There will be the opportunity to come back to the commission for evaluation, he said, and it would surprise him if she does not meet or exceed expectations of the commission, staff and community. He said he would notify the commission if he moves forward with a national search.
“Ms. Harrison-Lee has my full support,” he said. “She’s going to need all of our support, to need this community’s support.”