21 Years of Serving the Public Together
It was the year 2000 when Franklin County first began “electing” their County Commissioners. After spending 2 years on the Planning Commission (1998 and 1999), current 5th District Commissioner, Donald Stottlemire, was one of those newly elected Commissioners – the only living Commissioner who served on the Board of County Commissioners from 2000 until 2004. The year 2000 was a superior year, as it was also the year the Franklin County Commissioners hired long-time Planning and Building Director, Larry Walrod.
Now, after 21 years, at the end of June, Larry Walrod will be hanging up his hat as Franklin County’s Planning and Building Director. Mr. Stottlemire (Don) and Mr. Walrod (Larry) have had a unique relationship for the past 20 plus years. They have seen and experienced so much in their years of serving the public together. Franklin County has great appreciation and so much gratitude for both of these gentlemen and we would like to honor them both for the years they have given, as well as the years ahead.
After high school, Larry spent some time in the military and then earned a degree from the University of California in Planning and Zoning. His degree studies were new and not well-known at the time. When Larry came to Franklin County, he had expounded a very well-known career as a Planning Director in not only Miami County but also in Anderson County, serving portions of Coffey County as well.
At the time of Larry’s interview with Franklin County, Commissioners were aware that Larry was nearing eligible retirement age. It was inevitable as Larry had already long-served Northeast Kansas. But, he assured those who interviewed him when he said, “I guarantee that I can give you a couple of good years.”
Don recalls that day well and said, “And I have always joked with him since then, what have the other 18 years been?”
Looking at each other, they both exclaimed, “Bad years!” in unison with laughter.
When Larry first started, Franklin County was working to zone the last two of 16 townships in the County. Typically, Kansas Counties zoned the entire County at once, Franklin County did not adopt zoning across the entire County – which proved to be a challenge in Larry’s first few years. Activities widely varied due to zoning issues. Larry was successful in cleaning this up.
Though new to Franklin County, Larry was not new to his role of Planning Director. However, being a County Commissioner was completely new for Don. It was typical for Don to come to every County Commission meeting with a laundry list of complaints that he had from his district. And one day, Larry told him, “Don, you know there is one thing about your job that you have to understand. You can’t be all things, to all people, all the time. You have professional staff. Just kick it this way. Give it to your staff – and if we can’t resolve it, then it will come back to you.”
“And by golly he listened,” Larry exclaimed.
“He broke me of that,” Don chimed in. And from then on, the two have accomplished great things together.
Throughout their 21 years with Franklin County, both Don and Larry have served in different positions as the other’s “boss” in a sense. “We have both been in capacities in which we have answered to the other,” Don explained. He as a County Commissioner over Larry. Don served on the Planning Commission (2015 to 2018) under Larry’s guidance during his hiatus as a Commissioner.
They have also served on multiple boards outside of this organization. Larry and Don are both currently serving on the Marais Des Cygnes Basin State Board, Larry for over 20 years and Don for the last two years. They also both serve on the Lake Region RC&D Board. Don is the current chairman and has served for 21 years. Larry has served on this board for 17 years.
The two agree that one of their biggest accomplishments together over all these years and all their service together, is that they have never had a true disagreement. They trusted one another and their abilities. But maybe most importantly, they have learned from one another along the way.
Its safe to say that over the years, Larry has “earned his keep.” He has been able to achieve the goals of the County’s comprehensive plan – one of those goals being protecting and maintaining a strong agricultural economy. Larry along with the Planning Commissioners, have been very successful at this, looking very cautiously at developments that would remove productive agricultural lands. The only exception being solar energy which is necessary to sustain economic growth in the future. Along with Planning and Zoning, Larry is also responsible for Sanitation and Building Codes in the County as well as many odds and ends that have come up along the way.
Don was adamant that Larry has always been the type of employee who works for the people he serves. Public service is never easy; however, it has just been natural for Larry. “He has always looked for ways to work with property owners to make what they wanted happen,” stated Don. “He has never told anyone – this ain’t gonna happen, period. He says, let’s find a way.”
“[My fellow Commissioners and I have] taken for granted that planning and zoning for the last 20 years has made the Commissioner’s job so much easier. This job is a very challenging position,” Don mentioned. “It is just so hard to please everybody and still accomplish your goals. But I think Larry has done that the best anybody could do.”
Larry was equally as complimentary to Don and all he has done for Franklin County. In fact, in 2014, Don was awarded the County Official of the Year Award by the Kansas Association of Counties. Who were his nominators? Franklin County employees, including Larry Walrod. Don is still the only Franklin County Commissioner who has ever received this prestigious award.
A Fond Farewell.
After 21 years of serving the Franklin County Public, Larry has his own words to share with the citizens and those he has worked with and worked for over the years.
I will be retiring from employment with Franklin County on June 30, 2021. I’m sure that most of us have heard that life is the time we pass through and is measured from our first breath to our last. I am fortunate to have occupied a part of that time serving as the Planning and Building Director of Franklin County. For the past 20 plus years, I have shared this time with many of the citizens of Franklin County, numerous builders, contractors and many talented and dedicated County Employees, Public Officials and various Board and Commission members.
I cherish that opportunity and the many memories of the progress the County has made during this time in maintaining the County’s “Rural Heritage” while also providing economic growth and keeping Franklin County as a desirable place to live and work.
I feel that I have been successful in contributing to that endeavor. I have given a full measure of my capability to uphold the land use and development standards and objectives expressed by the people of Franklin County and adopted by the Governing Body.
Again, I want to thank Franklin County for the opportunity to serve as your Planning & Building Director.
Larry D. Walrod
Larry, Franklin County has been absolutely blessed to have employed you for the last 20+ years. We wish you well in your retirement. Relax and enjoy – you deserve it!