New Jersey administrator accepts De Soto job
Fort Scott native’s career spans 26 years, five states
Patrick Guilfoyle got confirmation he picked the right career choice when years ago he saw the results of a university study as a young assistant city administrator.
De Soto's next city administrator, who will assume his City Hall duties March 6, said the study asked city managers what alternate careers they found attractive.
"One and two -- I can't remember in what order -- was theater and the ministry," he said. "Both of those were things I was interested in and pursued before I turned to city management for a career choice.
"I enjoy working with people and am very people oriented. I like to think I'm not only comfortable with that kind of environment but thoroughly enjoy it."
Guilfoyle's interest in the two alternate careers suggest the De Soto City Council found the right man to replace Greg Johnson, who departed in September. Council members said they wanted an experienced and confident spokesman for the city.
Plainsboro, N.J., Mayor Peter Cantu, said Guilfoyle spent 16 years in Plainsboro before moving to Piscataway, N.J., in 2003. The length of that tenure speaks to the job Guilfoyle did and the respect he earned, Cantu said.
"I don't know about Kansas, but that's unusual for New Jersey," Cantu said.
Guilfoyle was a knowledgeable financial administrator who brought new methods to that city's budget, Cantu said. He also praised Guilfoyle as a skillful communicator in the central New Jersey city of 22,000.
"We started a number of outreach programs -- one in recreation planning -- in which he was instrumental," Cantu said.
Dave Anderson said Guilfoyle was selected from a surprisingly strong field of candidates. The mayor characterized Guilfoyle as "over-qualified" with experience that puts him on par with city managers in Johnson County's larger cities.
Guilfoyle had the financial strengths Johnson brought to the city plus years of experience, the mayor said.
"My feeling was when we started this, I wanted to see someone with a few gray hairs -- somebody with a wealth of experience," Anderson said. "Then to have someone with the personality, communication skills and confidence we're going to need in our discussions with Sunflower Redevelopment, the county and the state agencies in the next few years."
The De Soto position became available as Guilfoyle was looking to return to his Kansas roots. Guilfoyle was born in Fort Scott, earned his undergraduate and master's degree from Kansas University, and has many family members living in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
He is familiar with the area and no stranger to De Soto. His wife, Sally, taught Spanish to junior high school students in what is now City Hall while he was in graduate school.
"My wife reminded me it was kind of weird that we were coming full circle," he said. "Her first job was in De Soto. When I went to the interview, I thought, 'Oh my God, this is where she taught."
His wife moved on to portfolio management with a large investment banking firm. The couple have two sons, 21 and 26 years of age.
As he and his wife looked to return to the Midlands, Guilfoyle said he looked for a city in which his experience would be most useful.
"Professionally, my experience in four municipalities in three states in 26 years have been in growth communities," he said. "I felt I had something I could share with other growth communities.
"De Soto popped up as one of those communities that offered that to me. De Soto is located where it is natural for growth to occur because of the attractiveness of the community and the economic situation."
That growth is still a few years off, but improvements that will make it possible are underway. The city council approved a contract to build a new wastewater plant at the same meeting it approved Guilfoyle's $86,000 annual contract. The city has also contracted a study of water supply and improvement options, including the cost and advantages of upgrading to the Sunflower water treatment plant and that of building a new facility.
Serving in growth communities meant overseeing capital projects, Guilfoyle said. Although a more established community, the same is true of Piscataway. The town of 52,000 that is home to about half of Rutgers University is upgrading much of its older infrastructure, including renovation of its primary office building, Guilfoyle said.
"Those are things that interested me and excited me about De Soto," he said. "Those are the types of things I enjoy doing -- getting involved with capital projects, planning them and seeing them through to completion."
The needs to fulfill pension obligations in New Jersey, tie up loose ends in Piscataway, put the couple's home there on the market and find a new home will delay Guilfoyle from starting in De Soto until March 6 and his wife's relocation somewhat longer. But he said the relocation process has already started with the contracting of a real estate agent.
Guilfoyle said he expected to follow up on his first visit to De Soto with another trip to the community late this month.
"We're very excited about what we saw," he said. "I wish I could make our excitement and enthusiasm something that reaches out from the newspaper."