Public residency rules vary in county
Although Marion City Council abolished a policy requiring several appointed officials live in or near the city at its April 30 meeting, several comparable cities in the area have more stringent policies than the one Marion eliminated.
Although Mayor Mary Olson and council member Todd Heitschmidt expressed concern about eliminating the policy, the council unanimously agreed with City Attorney Keith Collett’s recommendation to abolish the policy and seek to hire the best people, regardless of residency.
With such policies, cities, counties, and school districts weigh the benefits of having employees living locally and the importance of hiring the best person for the job, regardless of where they live.
The City of Hillsboro’s policy is that all employees should live within the city limits. Article N of the city’s handbook allows for exceptions when hiring someone outside the city is “necessary or desirable.”
Even then, the policy says that if such an employee moves, they must move into the city. For employees already living within the city, continuing to do so is a condition of employment.
In the City of Peabody, department heads must live in the city limits unless their contract specifically exempts them, City Administrator Mac Manning said. All employees must live in the area served by the Peabody post office.
Nearby in southern Dickinson County, the City of Herington requires all employees live near the city, although not necessarily within its bounds. City Manager Ron Strickland said the more time sensitive the job, the more stringently the policy is enforced, so emergency personnel like police are expected to live very close at hand.
Overall, school districts’ requirements are the most lenient among local government entities. None of the six school districts surveyed require all staff to live in or near the district, but all encourage employees to reside locally.
Marion/Florence USD 408 and Peabody-Burns USD 398 require administrators live in the districts. USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker said that is largely a matter of access in emergency situations.
USD 398 Interim Superintendent Demitry Evancho said he considers residency an important aspect of administrators being visible and accountable in their communities.
“You like to have people be visible who are in those leadership roles,” he said.
Residents appreciate seeing administrators as part of the community — it shows “buy-in” on their part — Evancho said.
Canton-Galva USD 419 doesn’t have a general requirement for employees to reside in the district.
“I wish, but we don’t,” Superintendent Bill Seidl said.
The superintendent is the only employee required to live in the district, but administrators are encouraged to live locally, he said.
Seidl said people who work in public jobs need to be actively involved in their communities; that is a part of rural life that has unfortunately faded, he said.
He estimated more than 50 percent of USD 419’s teachers live outside the district. Many have children of their own who attend school outside the district, which means those teachers are busy with their children’s activities elsewhere, rather than being involved in Canton-Galva activities.
Hillsboro USD 410, Goessel USD 411, and Centre USD 397 have no requirement for any employees to live in those districts.
USD 410 Superintendent Steve Noble said he adheres to the philosophy that school employees benefit from living in the district. It makes it easier to connect to the community, he said. But he recognizes that some people can make that connection well without living in the school district.
“We have good people living on both sides of the district line,” Noble said.
Marion County’s policy is that employees should live within the county, doubly so for department heads, County Clerk Carol Maggard said. There is one notable exception to that policy, though: by Kansas statute, the county attorney — an elected official — may reside outside the county.
Dickinson County’s policy isn’t as encompassing. The only non-elected officials who must live in the county are deputy sheriffs.