Leland Butcher: Neosho City Manager

The city has great, loyal and dedicated employees who want to do good for the citizens of Neosho.

By Kathleen Swift

Leland Butcher became the Neosho city manager this past September. His career in public service stretches over 20 years, beginning with his service in the U.S. Navy. He served with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office in Milton, Florida, as well as an adjunct instructor at the George Stone Criminal Justice Training Center and at Pensacola State College. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration with a focus on Leadership and Public Management. 

Butcher said, “I choose to study the workings of government because I believe that the government, working in concert with internal and external stakeholders, can positively impact the lives of the citizens they serve and the business community.”

SMTO: What made the job as Neosho city manager attractive to you?

Butcher: I find the City of Neosho to be a wholesome and welcoming community that has the potential to become an even better place to work and live. My wife and I visited Neosho on several occasions before I even applied for the job. We discovered that every place we stopped, people were so friendly. We found the city has a lot to offer such as parks, recreation, good schools, low crime rate, the beautiful historic district, etc. I have lived in major metropolitan areas, and you don’t have the friendly and wholesome atmosphere that you have in Neosho. My wife and I grew up in small towns and miss the close-knit community that can only be found in small towns.

SMTO: What are your priorities for the community?

Butcher: My focus is developing solutions that address the issues identified in the 2017 Comprehensive Plan and economic development. Starting at the end of October, the city will start a strategic planning process that identifies the steps and resources needed to get from where the city is now to where the city wants to be. I estimate the initial planning should take six to eight months and will involve input from the mayor, city council, internal and external stakeholders. We have to develop options for the elected officials in order to make sound decisions in leading the city.

SMTO: How do you view the role of city manager?

BUTCHER: The city manager provides guidance and leadership to the city employees in implementing policies of the city council. As city manager, I need to make sure that the city has the right people, with the right skill sets, doing the right job, and receiving the right training. Does the city have the right policies and procedures to allow employees to succeed? The city has great, loyal and dedicated employees who want to do good for the citizens of Neosho.

SMTO: In what ways can new technology benefit the city? 

BUTCHER: Technology can benefit the city in countless ways. For instance, currently, the majority of our records are paper records. The records are manually filed and retrieved, and that can take many staff hours. Public records requests for older records are problematic in that someone may have to spend hours tracking down those records and processing them. That is just one example of the difficult processes that could be streamlined through the use of technology. It also frees up city employees to work on other issues.

SMTO: What are your dreams or big ideas for the growth of Neosho?

BUTCHER: One of the biggest challenges facing the city is economic growth. Neosho is in a unique location, and it is close to Northwest Arkansas, Joplin and Springfield, Missouri. I believe that if the city works closely with our internal and external stakeholders such as the Chamber of Commerce, we can grow Neosho and provide the services people want and make the city a place people want to live and work. We are successful when we make positive social change that has a lasting impact.

SMTO: Who has influenced your life?

BUTCHER: That is a very difficult question because there have been so many people that have influenced my life. I would say the person who I admire and has been the most influential in my life is my wife of 30-plus years, George Ann. She has been my rock throughout our marriage. I saw her sacrifice her nursing career for me while I was in the Navy as we moved across the country every 3 years. While I was stationed on ships and deployed, she was basically a single parent and raised our two beautiful and amazing daughters with little help from me. My wife is always a source of encouragement and is also my critic and is not afraid to speak up when she thinks I could do better.