City Manager builds harmony along with community


Concordia City Manager Larry Uri responds to a question from the audience during his presentation Monday evening as part of the 2011 Speakers Series at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

As Larry Uri marked his third anniversary as Concordia City Manager, he recalled Monday evening the interview with the five City Commissioners that got him the job.

“I told them that to do this kind of job for any length of time, you need one overweening goal,” he told the crowd at the Nazareth Motherhouse, where he was the seventh presenter in the 2011 Concordia Speaker Series. “I told them mine was harmony.”

Uri paused then, for self-effacing effect, before adding, “They didn’t really say anything to that and we just moved on.”


Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, introduces Larry Uri Monday evening.

That goal of harmony, though, is one Uri takes seriously — and one he has worked toward since being named City Manager in September 2008. It’s a key component, he said, in “building community,” which was the title of his talk Monday evening.

“Harmony is not so hard to find, particularly in this community,” he said. “It’s there for the asking.”

To create the kind of harmony needed to get work done, the first thing you need is respect, Uri said. “You have to treat people with respect, no matter what’s going on; you have to assume good faith.”

The next requirement is to create connections — something at which he said the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, who have hosted the Speakers Series — have excelled at. He cited Neighbor to Neighbor, the downtown center for women the sisters opened in May 2010 as “a shining example, but it is not your only one.”

Another element in building harmony in City Hall and in the community, Uri said, is “figuring out who’s the conductor and who’s the choir,” meaning who will demonstrate leadership and initiative and who will join in and get the job done.

That sometimes means recognizing that people can play different roles, depending on what’s required of them, he added.

“When I’ve reached out and asked conductors in this community to join the choir, they have — willingly.”

One such “community conductor” who has joined many choirs over the years is Edith Uri, and her son introduced her to the audience. “She still comes to hear her son give a report,” Larry Uri said, drawing a round of applause from the audience.

Uri called the final necessary element for harmony “marching along” — the willingness to keep working at a project, even when it’s difficult and will probably take a long time to complete.

Projects that he said require “marching along” include the joint purchase — completed Monday — by the city and county of the former Alco property on the east edge of Concordia, the proposed flood control dam and “South Concordia Park” between Highway 81 and College Drive and the proposal for a new hospital on property near the airport.

The Cloud County Health Center board is still pursuing proposals on three properties near the airport, he said. And while it will be an expensive project, it’s also a critical one for the community.

The same is true of the flood control dam project at the south end of the city. The new dam as proposed would be four times the size of the 100-year-old earthen structure now there, he said.

“We’ve been working on this since 1996,” Uri added. “A dam must be built; a park can be built.”

The city hopes to have a more definite plan plus “hard dollar figures” on that project by the end of the year, Uri added.

Added to the elements of respects, connections, conductor and choir and “marching along,” Uri said there was one more factor needed for continuing harmony: Perspective.

“Our problems large and small are not insurmountable,” he said. “But sometimes I have to just step back or get out of town to see that. And that allows me to see what we’ve accomplished.”

Uri, like the previous speakers in the 2011 Series, answered questions from the audience after his presentation.

The final presenter in the series will be Cameron Thurner, an outreach specialist for the Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas. On Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. Thurner, who works in DVACK’s Concordia office, will discuss domestic violence in rural communities. Her talk is free and open to the public.

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