Retiring city manager notes changes in Kingman
3/1/2013 6:01:00 AM
By Doug McMurdo
KINGMAN - Jack Kramer's decision to step down after 33 years with the city of Kingman was by design.
"It was my plan," said the city manager on Thursday. "With my years in the system and my age, it's time."
Kramer left the City Council four months notice and in his letter of resignation he said he would continue to assist the city in any way he could.
"It's been a pleasure working for the city for so long," he said. "Watching it grow and being a part of it, serving the public was a great experience."
He's not leaving without small regrets.
"I'm going to miss a lot of friendships," he said. "But I'll stay in Kingman, do a little traveling and decide how much golf and hunting I can do."
After he was named interim city manager in 2007, Kramer was criticized by a small but vocal group of residents who thought he didn't have the credentials to manage.
He takes their criticism in stride.
"You can't make everybody happy," he said, "but when I took the job I came in knowing the department heads were excellent. I knew their abilities because I worked with them for so long and we all knew we had to do our best for the city.
"I knew that listening to citizens and returning their phone calls was important."
The city he would one day manage was a lot different in 1977, when Kramer moved to Kingman from North Dakota.
"I-40 wasn't completely open back then. I believe there were three or four stoplights in the city and about 7,500 or 8,500 residents," he said.
He began his career with Kingman in 1979 with the water department and worked his way up. He led the Utilities Department and Public Works before ascending to the top administrative position.
"We've had pretty steady growth," he said. "Things were progressing and we've made a lot of improvements. Stockton Hill Road didn't go past the hospital and now it goes out to Northern."
The Regional 911 system and a new public works facility, he said, were important milestones during his tenure.
Kramer said the biggest challenge he faced as city manager came early in his tenure, when neither the city's residents nor its employees were pleased with how things were going.
The previous manager alienated people and the economy was collapsing.
"I had to try to gain back the trust of citizens and employees," he said. "I knew we would have severe budget restraints and I had to make tough calls. I told staff we couldn't wait and we had to follow through with the decisions we made. Laying off people was the most difficult thing I had to do."
If given the opportunity he would tell his replacement that budget issues will continue to be the biggest threat facing the city.
"We rely on sales tax only," he said. "We don't get any property tax revenue to rely on and sales tax is volatile. It's up and down."
Kramer said the city's burden should ease once the state "gets back in order." He said the cuts the Legislature has made, taking money that had been dedicated to cities for years, has affected local control.
"You have to keep up with them," he said. "The state has taken over $1 million from us."
And he will also try to keep up with the relationships he's developed over three-plus decades.
"I made a lot of great friends and leaving will be difficult, I'm sure," he said. "I've enjoyed all 33 years and worked with a lot of great mayors."
John Salem, the current mayor, told the Kingman Daily Miner that Kramer was a huge asset to the city.
"He brought a lot of integrity and honesty to the job," Salem said Wednesday, "and the city has been blessed to have him in that position."
Kramer's last day on the job is July 1.