Interview with Michael Ort
The following profile is the third in a series of public service student profiles of our students and alumni at the university.
Job title: City Administrator of Jetmore, KS
What are you currently working on in your community?
The town of Jetmore has a population of only 850 people, but I’m kept busy! I am the general manager for Jetmore, managing the activities of a City Clerk, an Assistant Clerk and two full-time summer employees. Outside, I have a foreman and two full-time permanent workers who do everything (electric, water, sewer, streets, parks, a small municipal airport and the city lake). There is also a manager for our nine-hole golf course.
I really love this job and being able to help my community in so many ways. I am a very hands-on manager and I’ve had experiences I wouldn’t have had elsewhere. I have run backhoes, front-end loaders and excavators. I helped seal our streets by running the packer (which pushes the chat into the oil after it has been applied to the street surface). I also went to a water school, saw the water system from the trench up and helped build a small water system while I was there.
Every once in a while, I go out and assist my employees. The other afternoon, I helped the guys mow areas at the city lake.
I wouldn’t be less busy in a larger municipality, but I wouldn’t have as much to do with every facet of our municipal government. Instead, I would have managers and supervisors to administer different departments. By working in a small community, I have more opportunities to personally impact the safety, comfort, transportation and recreational needs of my community.
What are some of the big projects you’re working on?
Last year, Jetmore finished a renovation of part of Main Street (U.S. Highway 283) and a $1 million renovation of our backup power plant. They took out seven very old engines and replaced them with a larger, used unit that we will use to generate power only as needed.
This year, I’m helping Jetmore manage an airport renovation project. We’re working on applying for a loan from either the Kansas Department of Health and Environment or USDA Rural Development for a $2.4 million water infrastructure project. With these funds, we’ll build a brand-new water tower and replace many old water mains around town. The work on that project should begin mid-year 2017 and take about a year.
I’ve also put Jetmore onto a path toward replacing all of the water and electric meters over a four-year period. These will be radio read smart meters to help our staff work more efficiently. Currently, it takes three or four guys three days to read all the meters. When we finish this process, it will take one person about an hour or so to read every meter.
I recommended purchasing an asset management system for January 2017 to help us track our inventory and work orders. The system will store data on each work order so that, over time, we accumulate data on what our infrastructure costs us to maintain. That will help us develop an intelligent repair and replacement schedule. So a lot is going on in tiny Jetmore, Kansas!
What are some of your goals for your career?
Prior to this job, I worked in transportation and logistics as a truck driver. Two days after completing my program at APU, I was laid off from my position. When that window closed, I saw it as an opportunity to push forward with my academic career and underlying goals as a professional.
My master’s thesis was on citizen participation in their local government. I’ve worked on creating that connection between government and community because I believe it’s so important. I knew I wanted to do something positive in my local government. When this opportunity came up, I couldn’t turn it down.
What are you doing to help your community?
I’ve always been politically and governmentally minded, so being involved with my community is vital to me. It’s something I’ve always striven to do. I’m also a Scoutmaster in my community as well. Serving, being active and participating are important to me.
Are there new projects on the horizon?
Creating the funding for the town’s water tower has been a big project for me, but I’m very excited to be a part of it since it helps my community. The current water tower serving my community is undersized, and there isn’t enough storage for the local fire department.
Our existing tower is 50,000 gallons. It should be between 120,000 to 130,000 gallons for our fire protection agencies. The current water tower has been in our town since 1914. I think it’s vital to update this important community resource and I’ve made it a primary focus in my current position.
We just opened bids for an airport project. Right now, Jetmore’s airport is considered a visual approach municipal airport. We’re looking to move towards instrument approach procedures, which are regulated by the FAA. We’ll also add new paint lines and a weather station by 2017. The instrument approach will make our community accessible to air ambulances. It will serve our community better when we have critical medical needs.