Last week, it was announced that the L.P. Cookingham fellowship program, was to be renamed the Cookingham-Noll Fellowship in order to honor our good friend Rich Noll, who passed away recently. Not only did Rich supervise the program for a number of years, but he himself was fellow back in the early 1980’s. In fact, it was because of that very program that Rich came to Kansas City and spent his professional life serving the citizens of Kansas City. Rich was just one of many Cookingham fellows who came to Kansas City and made a difference.
Many Kansas Citians today have no idea who L.P. Cookingham was, or what his legacy is to the field of public administration. Cookingham came to Kansas City in 1940 and for the next 19 years would serve as City Manager for Kansas City. He was thought of as the ideal public servant, a man who put the public good ahead of any personal gains. Saddled with a $20 million in debt, Cookingham went to work immediately, cutting 2,000 individuals from the City payroll and balancing the budget within two years. His management style was studied and emulated around the country.
One of his innovative ideas was to start a management internship program to train leaders of the future. Kansas City was the first city in the nation to start such a program, and over the next 60 years it has provided on the job training for recent graduates with a masters degree in public administration. Many of those interns went on to become city managers around the country, while others, chose to stay in Kansas City and make it a better place.
Among the graduates of the program are former Chamber staffer and current Traverse City, Michigan, Chamber President & CEO Doug Luciani, MARC Executive Director David Warm, Jewel Scott, Executive Director of the Civic Council, and………yours truly.