by Ivan Foley
On a split vote among aldermen, it has been decided Platte City will now have an assistant city administrator.
The decision came after a 45-minute closed session during Tuesday night’s meeting of aldermen.
Marji Gehr, currently the city’s finance officer, will take on additional responsibilities as assistant city administrator. The move will bump her salary from its current level of $59,000 to $75,000.
“She will continue as finance officer plus assume assistant city administrator responsibilities,” D.J. Gehrt, city administrator, told The Landmark.
Aldermen voting in favor of the move were John Higgins, Tony Paolillo, Lee Stubbs and Brad Fryrear. Opposed were Vickie Atkins and Debbie Kirkpatrick. There was no open session discussion on the topic.
Gehr has served as city finance officer since July of 2014. Prior to coming to the city, she had 15 years of senior level private sector experience. Out of college she started with Jack Henry, was recruited by Sprint around the year 2000 before working her way up to senior management at K-Force, a company with a billion dollar market valuation before deciding to return to the Kansas City area.
Creating the position of assistant city administrator will allow the city administrator to focus on economic development, Gehrt said.
“The purpose of the change is to free up more senior staff resources (combination of city administrator and assistant city administrator time) to focus on economic development activities with an expectation of improved outcomes and lower costs than our current economic development efforts,” he said.
“Currently we feel we are getting very good and extremely cost effective assistance from the chamber of commerce and Platte County EDC but we are less sure about the return we have received through the occasional use of contracted economic development consultants. Their hourly rates tend to be high enough that we can’t afford too many hours but we need more consistency in minding the economic development store in order to keep projects moving forward, especially on the east side of I-29,” Gehrt told The Landmark after the meeting.
Gehrt said adding the duties to Gehr will be a better return on investment than if the city created and funded a full economic development program with an additional staff position(s).
“We believe this decision gives us a lot of flexibility, takes advantage of qualities of current staff, reduces outside economic development costs and will improve our economic development program. The changes in duties and tasks will allow me to more consistently spend time on major economic development projects while also creating opportunities for the city to use Marji’s private sector skills and knowledge on a number of economic development issues,” Gehrt said.
Gehrt said that while the city has had some “pretty good” economic development successes in the last year to help existing businesses, “we need to continue efforts to grow Platte City businesses while we push more consistently for activity on the east side of I-29.”
The city administrator emphasized the additional $15,000 to $16,000 of salary costs is far less than creating a full house economic development program, which he estimated at $100,000, and far less than current economic development contracting costs of about $97,500.
Gehr will assume duties and responsibilities of Gehrt whenever the city administrator is absent.