Topeka Capital-Journal (Kansas)
BYLINE: Tim Hrenchir.
Pam Simecka was among a handful of Seaman High School gifted students who got to learn about this community’s local government in the early 1970s.
Program participants attended Topeka City Council and Shawnee County Commission meetings, and met with Mayor Bill McCormick, Simecka recalled.
She said the experience got her “hooked” on the idea of working in municipal government.
On Saturday, Simecka became Topeka’s interim city manager, a position she is under contract to hold until the city council hires a permanent city manager this summer.
Simecka’s road from learning about Topeka’s government to running it has been an indirect one.
She talked Friday with The Topeka Capital-Journal about her experiences, which include 25 years as a small business owner.
Simecka was born in Topeka as one of four children of Dale and Sondra Ridgeway. Her father ran a mechanical contracting company, Ridgeway and Son.
Dale and Sondra Ridgeway, both pilots, later owned and operated Blue Sky of Topeka, a charter airline. Sondra Ridgeway also worked as a pilot for Commuter Airlines, a commuter airline service. She died at age 74 in 2008, while Dale Ridgeway still lives in Topeka.
After graduating from Seaman, Simecka earned degrees in accounting and finance from Washburn University. She then transferred to The University of Kansas, where she earned a degree in political science.
Simecka said she became assistant city manager in the late 1970s at St. Marys, where she was married in 1979 to a “local guy,” Gary Simecka. They pronounce their last name “suh-mess-kee,” with the emphasis being on the second syllable.
Pam Simecka spent six or seven years as assistant city manager in St. Marys. She decided not to pursue a career as a city manager because that would likely involve moving a lot, which her husband opposed.
While Simecka was still working for the city of St. Marys, the Simeckas purchased and began operating Simecka’s Variety Store there. The couple for 25 years ran the business, which in its later years was a gift shop and copy center.
Pam Simecka also cared for the couple’s daughter, Jennifer Simecka, who died at age 28 in 2010; taught accounting and business courses for Highland Community College at Wamego; and furthered her education, including obtaining a master’s degree in public administration in 1993 from KU. She subsequently became certified as a public accountant in 2006.
About the time the Simeckas sold their store, Pam Simecka started work in 2004 as business service manager for the water pollution control division in the city of Topeka’s public works department.
She moved to the city’s finance department to work as an accountant in 2007, became the city’s controller later that year and was appointed interim finance director last year.
City council members voted May 22 to hire Simecka to serve as interim manager effective last Saturday to replace Dan Stanley, who left last Friday 1 for family reasons. City accounting manager Tina Lloyd took over the interim finance director’s job.
While holding that position, Simecka said she has regularly come to work at 7 a.m. each day and stayed until 6:30 or 7 p.m.
She has also made a practice of working one day each weekend.
Simecka anticipates her work schedule will be similar as interim city manager. She said she plans to move from her current office in the finance department to the office Stanley has been using.
Simecka isn’t seeking the permanent manager’s job. Forty-nine people have applied for that position.
City plans call for Simecka to return to the interim finance director’s job once a permanent manager is hired.
“I like being finance director,” she said.
Simecka said much of her focus as interim manager will be on helping the city’s governing body craft a 2013 city budget.
The city is in the process of implementing a new “Balanced Scorecard” process for budgeting. Simecka is scheduled to give the council a presentation on that process at its 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday in its chambers at 214 S.E. 8th.
Copyright 2012 The Topeka Capital-Journal
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