Retired City Manager Michael Morgan - A Legacy of Service and Innovation

Retired City Manager Michael Morgan - A Legacy of Service and Innovation Main Photo

8 Apr 2024

As we step into a new season, the Development Council is excited to showcase three examples of exceptional leadership that have shaped Kearney, the communities of Buffalo County, and beyond as part of our three-week “Legacy of Leadership” series.

Throughout his 19-year tenure as the City Manager of Kearney, Nebraska, Michael Morgan demonstrated exceptional leadership, community engagement, and adaptability, leaving a lasting impact on the city and its residents. His commitment to transparency and citizen involvement set a high standard for local governance and led to significant advancements in the city.

A Legacy of Citizen Engagement and Tangible Improvements

One of Morgan's key focuses was the implementation of citizen listening sessions, which helped lead to voter-approved tax increases. These initiatives not only demonstrated citizen support but also created transparency in decision-making. Projects that were funded with these mild tax increases positively impacted the community, leading to noticeable improvements in residents' lives.

"I am very proud of the support we received, the transparency that was created, and the lives that were changed due to the projects that were completed. Also, I cannot stress enough how proud I am of our employee engagement and their commitment to 'Solution-Based Service' every day."

Increasing Levels of Development in Kearney

During his time as City Manager, Michael Morgan was involved in Kearney's most significant project to date, the $46 million SportsPlex. Mr. Morgan reflected on this achievement, stating, "The SportsPlex is a testament to Kearney's cooperative spirit. This facility will improve the quality of life for residents and bring more people to our city."

The SportsPlex, set to open in early 2025, will boast 209,000 square feet of indoor, climate-controlled, multi-use premier athletic amenities. Its strategic location off Interstate 80 ensures year-round accessibility, and it will cater to a wide array of sports and events, including youth and adult tournaments, camps, leagues, and recreation programs.

Other notable projects and developments that occurred when Morgan was City Manager include:

  • Upgrades to Kearney Regional Airport, including a new runway, taxiway, and terminal improvements
  • Establishment of the TechoNE Crossing technology park, featuring a 53-acre solar farm
  • Addition of nine splash pads for family recreation
  • Opening of the Peterson Senior Activity Center
  • Collaboration with the Kearney-Buffalo County Law Enforcement Center
  • Implementation of a second wellfield for improved water access
  • Construction of the Central Nebraska Veterans' Home

Adapting to Change: Michael Morgan's Approach to Evolving City Management

Morgan faced numerous challenges as City Manager, including economic downturns, flooding, and the COVID-19 pandemic. He navigated these crises successfully through improved communication with residents and innovative problem-solving. His approach emphasized flexibility and creativity, essential qualities in addressing unexpected challenges.

Over his 39-year career, Morgan witnessed the evolution of the City Manager's role, particularly with advancements in technology and changes in communication. Despite these changes, he maintained a people-first approach, recognizing that effective city management requires a deep understanding of community needs and aspirations.

Leading with Purpose

As Morgan retires, his advice to aspiring City Managers is invaluable:

  • Understand the public sector's expectations and challenges.
  • Recognize the opportunity to make a difference in citizens' lives.
  • Consistently seek improvement and adaptation.

"We succeeded by always asking 'Why Not?' and approaching challenges with a positive outlook, believing we could make things better. We remain mindful that every dollar spent belongs to our citizens, motivating us to evolve and continuously find solutions, even in small steps. As public servants, we deeply value our residents' contributions and prioritize their needs above all else. Engaging citizens in understanding their needs was crucial in Kearney. This approach led to their trust and financial support when we needed it."

Michael Morgan's legacy inspires current and future leaders and highlights the importance of community involvement, transparency, and adaptability in effective city management.

Development Council for Buffalo County

The Development Council for Buffalo County dedicates itself to driving economic growth and development for you and your business. Our mission is to use innovative strategies that elevate our existing companies while forging impactful opportunities for new businesses, investors, and developers. This approach enhances the quality of life in Buffalo County and fosters genuine prosperity, giving every resident a compelling reason to call this unique place home. The Development Council’s collaborative partnership with the City of Kearney, and the City Manager, is a key ingredient in achieving this end. Contact us today and follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook!

Stay tuned for next week’s Legacy of Leadership spotlight featuring UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen.