A city manager’s take on leadership

By Rachel Lyons / Staff Writer


Hutchinson City Manager John Deardoff spoke at a forum in Shears Technology Center. He spoke about what he does as City Manager and his views on leadership. Deardoff plans to retire in the spring.


When John Deardoff started college at Saint Mary’s of the Plains College, the only thing, he knew was that he wanted to play college football. Today, he is months away from retiring from his role as Hutchinson City Manager after nearly 40 years working in public-sector management.

For one hour on Oct. 17, John Deardoff wasn’t in his office working on a project, at a city meeting, or at home with his family. He was speaking in the Justice Theatre in Shears Technology Center to Dan Dan Naccarato’s 34th Management Forum.

Naccarato is a well-known part of Hutchinson Community College, with his famous saying, “Every day is a great day to study business” spotted upon whiteboards in Parker Student Union. Other Naccarato sayings include “every organization is a business” and “every day seems like a holiday around here”. With a review of Naccarato’s seven rules, Deardoff’s presentation commenced.

Deardoff introduced himself as a 40-year bureaucrat, who will retire in March or April, has a wife of 37 years, and three daughters, all of whom are out of college. While in college, Deardoff chose to major in political science.

Upon graduation, Deardoff returned to Dodge City to serve as Assistant City Manager, and then City Manager at Sterling for more than four years. He became Hutchinson Assistant City Manager for five years, returning to Dodge City as City Manager for 13 years, and finally to Hutchinson as City Manager for 15 years, upon retirement.

But what is a City Manager? According to Deardorff, in a way the City Manager is the CEO of the city. Unlike a normal company however, a city is never closed. The work of the city is, for the most part, front-page news, and the media is always watching. The job of a city manager is also to build relationships with those in the community. One of the most important examples of this given by Deardoff is the story of how he built a relationship with the owner of the Wiley Building. Eventually, he was able to persuade them to sell and reassure them that the they were doing the right thing when they second guessed themselves shortly before the sale went through.

Deardoff closed with five things to know about leadership.

“Leadership is about people, leadership requires courage, continued learning, (getting) the right people on the bus, and (working) hard and (being) nice.”

Afterwards, HutchCC Economics Instructor Matt Wilper said that he found it “wonderful to talk about a seasoned professional (and he) had wonderful insight on leadership and management”.

HutchCC student Brian Nicewinder said “I didn’t have any clue that we had a city manager, (or) what the city does (in terms of) projects.”

HutchCC President Carter File said, “I thought it was outstanding, it showed there are great public sector jobs for [those] desiring that kind of work. I thought John was very professional and had great info for students.

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