Lyndon’s city administrator encourages teamwork to build a successful community

071414-betty-thompsonCommunication and cooperation. That will be the management style of Betty Thompson, recently named as city administrator of Lyndon. She will begin putting her ideas to work for the community on July 15, her first official day on the job.

Thompson formerly served as a city administrator of the Kansas town of Quinter, population 918, from 2007 to 2009, but her love of small towns began years earlier, in tiny Cloudcroft, N.M., where she grew up.

“I have fond memories of growing up in Cloudcroft,” Thompson told Osage County News in a recent interview. “It was fun place to grow up. There were mountains and meadows, and in a small town kids feel comfortable just walking around town.”

It was that fondness that eventually led to her job at Quinter, where she worked with typical issues that small towns face.

“At Quinter I dealt with the same issues, such as water and sewer, and tight budgets,” Thompson said. “I wore the same hat in Quinter that I will in Lyndon.”

She said she chose Quinter as a place to begin her public administration duties due to its location about halfway between her family in the Overland Park area and where her father lived in Pueblo, Colo.

“After my father was gone, I returned to family in Overland Park,” she said, ending her job at Quinter.

She continued to pursue a master’s degree in public administration, which she obtained from the University of Kansas, after previously studying political science and public affairs at the University of Denver.

In her master’s studies, she selected small towns in Kansas as her preferred focus. Graduation was followed by a variety of management internships with the cities of De Soto, Baldwin City and Bonner Springs. She stayed professionally active and gained more experience in municipal government by volunteering for Overland Park’s neighborhood program, assisted with the Census, worked for Johnson County election office, in addition to focusing on several family matters that kept her from seeking full-time work.

“When I resumed full-time employment, I wanted to devote myself to working and the community,” she said. “A city administrator has to wear a lot of hats.”

With the goal of staying close to the family home in Overland Park, Thompson sought positions in small towns near the Kansas City area, eventually leading her to the vacant position at Lyndon.

“Lyndon worked,” she said, “as it’s only an hour and half from Overland Park.”

She said her studies encouraged her “participatory” management style, which she hopes to use in Lyndon. Work as a volunteer and co-chair of an Overland Park neighborhood committee showed her the importance of developing consensus among citizens, government officials and city staff.

“I see [a town] as one team,” she said. “We may all have different roles and perspectives, but we’re all part of one community. I want to develop programs to help citizens and elected officials to make informed decisions that can be mutually beneficial and cost effective.

“What I would like to do in Lyndon is also get input from various organizations,” she said. “We need to have all segments of community represented so we can work together.”

Thompson said she has toured Lyndon and learned some about its infrastructure and ongoing projects, and she knows she will learn more once on the job.

“But one thing I know I need to do is to expand the budget document,” she said. “It becomes a communication and planning tool to use by citizens and elected officials and gives a sense of which projects should have priority.

“If everyone has information, they get the whole picture, can understand the budget process and work toward establishing priorities,” she said. “I look forward to getting input and seeing the community work together.”

She said working on the budget will take time, but her “first goal is to meet as many people in Lyndon as soon as I can. I will be out and about, take walks, and just meet everyone.”

Thompson has already secured a residence in Lyndon, which is one of her contract requirements, but her husband Dan will maintain the family home at Overland Park due in part to his job as a casualty claims specialist with insurance company AIG.

Thompson said she and her husband enjoy taking walks together, which she thinks will suit Dan when he visits Lyndon on weekends.

“It’s quiet here and the pace is slower than his busy work week,” she said. “I’m sure he will be in town frequently.”

In addition to her husband, Thompson’s immediate family includes their adult daughter, Leslie, and her mother-in-law, Heidi, who all currently live in Overland Park.

She said her husband enjoys golf and relaxing from his work schedule, and she enjoys sewing and gardening.

“I noticed that last year there was a canning and preserving class (as part of Lyndon’s community garden) which I would like to learn,” she said. “I already have the jars, lids and pans.”

“Lyndon has much to offer and I’m looking forward to working together toward continued economic growth and success while retaining Lyndon’s sense of community and values,” she said. “We are looking forward to being part of the community.”

See related story here.

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