Plans to pursue employment outside of government
Jeff LaGarce's tenure as Hannibal's city manager officially ended Friday.
LaGarce announced 90 days prior he would be leaving after serving as city manager for more than 12 years.
A city manager stays in a community an average of 3 to 5 years, LaGarce said. However, he is not surprised at how long his stay in America's Hometown lasted.
"I actually considered the very real prospect of possibly retiring from here, which would have been approximately 20 years from my start date back in 2006. It wasn’t a goal necessarily, just a realistic possibility," he said. "It turns out I am not retiring from here; not in the technical 'retirement' sense, but I am moving on to a new field outside of government entirely."
LaGarce does not have a new job lined up at this point.
"I’ll be taking courses to specialize in a different field. That’s what I’ll be doing for a while when I return to St. Louis," he said. "I’ll get a job in the private sector in 2020, after I’ve done all that."
LaGarce acknowledges it's hard to leave before the city's multimillion-dollar riverfront renovation project is completed.
"It's actually hard to leave for a lot of reasons, the riverfront being one of them. There are many great things happening here," he said. "While I am happy to be moving on to a new phase of my life, it is not easy leaving."
LaGarce has been very busy in the three months before Friday's departure. Budget work started early this year, he said. He also has been focused on securing grants, agreements with the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council and Viking Cruise Lines, and on the impending transition of the former Saint Elizabeth hospital property from the city to the renovation project's investors.
A number of projects have been undertaken and completed on LaGarce's watch, and he stops short of saying any particular one gave him the most satisfaction.
"I’ve generally enjoyed them all," he said. "The 42 flood buyouts in 2009-2011 wasn’t the most enjoyable experience, owing to all the federal regulations one must navigate. Aside from that though and actually including that, a lot of neat things have happened here over the years."
One project LaGarce will not see through to completion is the renovation of a portion of the former Saint Elizabeth hospital into senior housing apartments, though he didn’t call it his biggest disappointment.
"I’m not actually disappointed at this juncture. I concede some disappointment that investors were not awarded state tax credits in 2018, but it is far from over. If things haven’t change over the next 24 months, I would then be very disappointed," he said. "I dearly wish they had been awarded tax credits in 2018, but that didn’t kill the project, it simply delayed it. I think its way too early for disappointment to be a factor."
Since he will no longer be Hannibal's city manager, LaGarce will be free for the first and third Tuesdays of each month, when the city council typically meets.
"I don’t know what I’ll do with this extra time, but I do welcome it," he said.
Few people outside of city hall know that in his free time, LaGarce made models of famous buildings with Legos, including a miniature Hannibal City Hall that won’t accompany him to St. Louis.
"I’m donating it to the city, along with the table/base it sits on,” he said. “I gave it to the mayor last week, along with building instructions I created.”
LaGarce said it will be difficult to say farewell to the many people in the public and private sectors who work so hard to make Hannibal a nice place.
"I’m a sentimental person, so I’m not very good with goodbyes," he said. "I have appreciated all the people who have made Hannibal a pleasure for me over the years, and especially those who have considered me a friend."