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Top Kansas City, Kansas, official to step down next week, Wyandotte County has new leaders in new year

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Unified Government
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Doug Bach, Unified Government administrator, will retire next week after 30 years with Wyandotte County.

Doug Bach, administrator of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, is retiring after nearly eight years as the person in charge of city and county government operations.

Doug Bach, a 30-year veteran of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, will step down on Jan. 6.

The announcement of Bach’s departure comes two weeks after Tyrone Garner was sworn in as the new mayor of the Unified Government. Through a Unified Government spokesperson, Garner declined to comment.

Bach has been the Unified Government’s administrator since 2014 and has spent his entire professional career working at City Hall. As administrator, Bach is the top manager for the operations of the Unified Government. He reports to the mayor and is responsible for carrying out policies approved by the Unified Government Commission.

Bach was also not available for comment on Wednesday.

A Unified Government announcement on Wednesday described Bach’s forthcoming departure as a retirement. The Unified Government has not named an interim administrator.

Questions about Bach’s future with the Unified Government have swirled ever since Garner’s first public meeting as mayor. After a lengthy public meeting on Dec. 16, Unified Government Commissioners met privately to discuss a personnel issue and an employment contract for a specific non-elected official.

Bach wasn’t specifically mentioned, but as commissioners called for a meeting, it was noted that a staff member designated by Bach was allowed to participate in the closed meeting.

No official action was taken after the closed session meeting concluded.

David Alvey, Garner’s predecessor as mayor, was largely supportive of Bach. But Garner was more circumspect about his views on Bach. Garner generally campaigned as a mayor who would seek a change from the Unified Government’s status quo.

Garner narrowly defeated Alvey, a one-term mayor, in November’s election and assumed office on Dec. 13.

The announcement gave Bach credit for several major economic development projects that attracted “hundreds of millions of dollars to the area” and stabilized the local economy. It also said Bach has helped ensure the Unified Government’s financial stability and guided the community through the COVID-19 crisis.

But Wyandotte County faces criticisms from residents about high city and county property tax rates, as well as complaints about the quality of government services and infrastructure. There are also grievances about the onerous bills coming from the Board of Public Utilities, which include a number of fees and charges for Unified Government operations that have nothing to do with the delivery of electricity and water to residents and businesses.

Those criticisms pre-date Bach’s time as administrator, but remained a focus during debates in the run-up to November’s election.

And Bach faced some controversies as administrator. A prominent one was his involvement in a loosely documented arrangement with former Kansas City, Kansas, Police Chief Terry Zeigler to live in a Unified Government-owned lakehouse at Wyandotte County Lake.

Zeigler was allowed to live there at discounted rent rates if he put in work to fix up the lakehouse. Zeigler lived there without a written lease for a time, and one wasn’t created until a local watchdog asked about its existence.

The deal attracted attention from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation but no one was charged with wrongdoing.

“I am honored to have served with the many hardworking, talented individuals across the Unified Government,” Bach said in a prepared statement. “Together, we have tackled many challenges and are now well-positioned to rebound from this pandemic stronger than ever.”

Steve Vockrodt is the investigative editor for the Midwest Newsroom.
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