Dennis McKinney hasn’t ruled it out, but said it’s not likely he’ll seek to permanently replace Steve Hewitt, the city manager who guided Greensburg through the early stages of recovery from a devastating tornado in 2007. He has accepted a 90-day interim appointment to the position.


Dennis McKinney hasn’t ruled it out, but said it’s not likely he’ll seek to permanently replace Steve Hewitt, the city manager who guided Greensburg through the early stages of recovery from a devastating tornado in 2007. He has accepted a 90-day interim appointment to the position.

Hewitt has accepted the position of city manager in Clinton, Okla. McKinney is transitioning from nearly two decades as a state legislator and state officer. He was appointed to the Kansas House of Representatives in May 1992 and re-elected for nine terms. A Democrat in a largely Republican area, he served as House minority leader from 2003 until 2008, when Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed him as state treasurer to replace Lynn Jenkins, who had been elected to Congress.

He lost his bid for election to the post in November, when Republicans made a clean sweep of state races.

“It will be a learning experience for me,” McKinney said of the interim position. “Hopefully, I have some talents to offer.”

Greensburg is still in the middle of a lot of projects, he said, including construction of the Big Well Museum complex, planning for an airport, some housing and economic development issues.

“We’ve got a full plate,” he acknowledged.

There has been a great deal of progress, aided in part by nation-wide publicity following the EF-5 tornado and a local emphasis on energy efficiency, which McKinney said makes Greensburg a logical place for someone engaged in a “green” industry.

In addition to attracting new industry, the city also needs to look at ways to help existing businesses retain their spot as a tourist destination. Greensburg currently has more Main Street retail business than it did pre-tornado, he noted.

“We have great green technology for people to see, a great story to tell and great retail,” he said. “Those three things go together to help retain a position for travelers, builders and people with a variety of backgrounds.”

A new Best Western motel opened in the fall, McKinney said, in a “green” building with a wind turbine next door. A County Commons, under construction, will house a museum, library, K-State Extension office and media center. The media center will give the city some leverage for broadcasting, both within the community and at a distance, telling the Greensburg story to people outside the area. That’s important for growth, he said.

The City Commission has contracted with the Kansas League of Municipalities in its search for a new city manager. The factors that define Greensburg’s rebuilding will make the leadership position attractive for candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds, McKinney believes.

Other than leading city staff through a transition period, McKinney said his focus is on improving his farm management and spending more time going to school events, something he missed while serving in Topeka. Dennis and Jean McKinney’s younger daughter is a senior at Kiowa County High School.

Reflecting on his years in the Legislature, McKinney said his greatest accomplishment may have been as part of a group that helped improve the quality of education, especially for at-risk students. He also enjoyed constituent services, helping Kansans solve a variety of problems. In his two years as state treasurer he is pleased to have made a major increase in returning unclaimed property to Kansans with substantially the same staff and budget as the previous treasurer.

One of his greatest disappointments is that, as a legislator, he was not able to get legislation passed to pay down the state’s debt in good times, so it would be in better shape in the bad times.

Noting an estimated $550 million in revenue shortfall for the next budget year, it’s an issue the state needs to continue working on, he said.