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The Cookingham-Noll Management Fellowship

The City of Kansas City, Missouri

He was a legend in his own time. Not many city managers have earned the right to be described as such, but L.P. Cookingham was no ordinary city manager. He became the manager of Kansas City, Missouri in 1940, at a critical juncture in the city’s history. Cookingham was largely responsible for moving the city from a previous era marked by municipal corruption and machine politics to a system of professional management. His innovative approach to public administration set a national standard for city administrators and made Kansas City a training ground for public management students.

Cookingham held the position of city manager for 19 years. At that time, no other city manager had ever served a community for so long anywhere in the nation. The Cookingham Noll Management Fellowship is one of his legacies. Cookingham originally established the internship pro¬gram to obtain professional assistance with the daily management of government operations from recent graduates of management degree programs. He saw the need to give public management graduates an opportunity to experience first-hand the inner workings of a large city government and to continue their education in a real-life setting. This basic program model has been replicated to produce municipal internship programs nationwide that help develop recent graduates and young professionals into successful city executives.

Richard Noll's Influence

In 2010 the Fellowship was renamed in memory of Richard Noll who exemplified Cookingham’s desire to train government leaders, both as a participant and a mentor. Noll came to the City of Kansas City in 1983 as a Cookingham Fellow. Upon finishing his one-year fellowship, Noll served as a budget analyst for five years, a budget supervisor for six years, and was appointed as an assistant city manager in 1995. Noll served as an advisor for the Cookingham Fellowship and was a mentor to many who came through the program. Noll, like L.P. Cooking¬ham before him, was dedicated to training future local government and com¬munity leaders.

From Fellows to City Managers

Many Cookingham-Noll fellows have moved on to be city managers and assistant city managers in municipalities across the nation. These include KUCIMATs Andy Anderson, Mike Letcher, Jewell Scott, David Davis, Tom Kaleco, John Miller, Steve Arbo, Jim Becklenberg, Lori Curtis, Matt Shatto, David Mitchell, and Megan Laha. Others are in positions of prominence in corporations, quasi-governmental organizations, and various departments within municipal government or their communities; they include Cory Smith, Steve Schainker, Jennifer Jones-Lacey and Zach Walker. Troy Schulte, Kansas City’s current City Manager, has recently re-energized The Cookingham-Noll Management Fellowship into a two-year program designed to introduce recent graduates to the field of municipal management. Fellows are hired as full-time City employees and are expected to meet performance standards set by supervising staff.

“The Cookingham-Noll Fellowship is one of the direct means that we infuse new ideas into our organization,” says Schulte. “Pairing new ideas and best practice standards with subject matter expertise is always entertaining and usually leads to significant program improvements. The end result blends the academic teaching and real-world issues into better public service delivery. Veteran public administrators get to hear new ideas and the latest academic thinking and the fellows get a crash course in the realities of public administration in a resource con¬strained environment.”

Fellowship Structure

The first year of the Fellowship is divided into four trimesters. The first trimester is intended to orient each Fellow to the City of Kansas City, Missouri, its government and Kansas City itself. The second focuses on the annual budget preparation process and various tasks as assigned. The final trimester of the first year allows Fellows the opportunity to select special projects in areas of specific interest. In their second year, Fellows are expected to apply skills learned in the first year in projects, areas of interest and/or relevant areas of need.

Throughout the two year program, Fellows work closely with the city manager, assistant city managers and departmental staff on a variety of projects.

One of the most important features of the Fellows program is the opportunity it offers to view municipal government in action. The Fellows are encouraged to attend a variety of high-level meetings and events to observe the decision-making process in action. During these meetings, they experience the city manager and mayor discussing the budget or the assistant city manager explaining a new city-wide project to the City’s department directors.

For Schulte, the Cookingham-Noll Fellowship is also the means by which Kansas City, Missouri can attract top talent into their organization. “Cookingham-Noll Fellows are identified early in their career as potential directors or program administrators and play a key support role to the senior management team of the city. The hard part for Kansas City and every other organization is retaining this talent for the long-term.”

More information about the Cookingham-Noll Fellowship Program can be found on the City of Kansas City, Missouri's website.

KU MPA Graduates who have served as Cookingham-Noll Fellows include:

Alan Abromovitz (1974)
Elizabeth Gutierrez (1974)
Robert Litras (1975)
David Perry (1976)
Michael Letcher (1978)
Jewel Scott (1978)
James Meitl (1979)
Andy Anderson (1980)
William Barlow (1981)
John P. Miller (1982)
Robert Pierce (1984)
Tom Kaleko (1985)
Stephen Arbo (1986)
Donna Baldwin (1987)
David Davis (1989)
Jim Becklenberg (1997)
Lori Knadle (Curtis) (1997)
Matt Shatto (2002)
Drew Chance (2003)
David Mitchell (2003)
Leander Bonner (2004)
Megan Laha (2005)
James R. Green (2005)
Katherine Carttar (2012)
Nick Hawkins (2012)
Jordan Brown (2013)
Eric Roche (2013)


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Ranked in the top 10 master of public affairs programs in the nation
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#1 in the nation for city management and urban policy

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#5 in the nation for public management

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Three faculty have won W.T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence
Rosemary O’Leary is KU’s Edwin O. Stene Distinguished Professor of Public Administration
Four MPA graduates have been elected president of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA)
Founder of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (JPART)
Four faculty are National Academy of Public Administration Fellows
Bob Kipp, vice president of Hallmark Cards, was a 2012 recipient of the CLAS Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award
Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary of health and human services, was a 2009 recipient of the CLAS Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award
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