I’m happy to say that warm weather is here as I look out at the lush green leaves and the flowers blooming! For this month, I had the opportunity to interview Casey Toomay, assistant city manager for the City of Lawrence. In that position, Toomay is also the LGBT liaison, working to make sure that LGBT voices in Lawrence are heard. Toomay has experience in city administration, and we are happy to have her working with us!
What led you to a career in city administration?
My career plan had always been to go to law school and become a prosecutor or public defender. When it came time to apply to law schools, a professor who I asked to write my letter of recommendation had me explain why I wanted to go to law school. I explained that it was important to me that people without a voice have a voice and that I felt strongly that the government should look like the people it represented. After I finished my explanation, he told me he would write my letter but he didn’t think I should go to law school. He thought I should get a master’s in public administration. He told me about all the career opportunities that exist in local government and how I would be able to do all of the things I wanted to do by working in city administration. Fortunately, the University of Kansas offered a joint degree program, where I was able to earn both a juris doctorate and master’s degree in public administration. While in law school, I got a job for working for the City of Lawrence in the Legal Services Department. Because of my interest in public administration, I was also given assignments in the City Manager’s Office, one of which was working on the city’s budget. I was exposed to all of the programs and functions of city government, and I became hooked. The rest, as they say, is history!
How long have you held the position of LGBT liaison, and has it always been a part of your position as assistant city manager?
It has not always been a part of the position of assistant city manager. In the summer of 2017, we were compiling information to send to the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index, and one of the questions asked if the city had a LGBTQ liaison to the city executive’s office. We didn’t have one, so I volunteered to serve in that capacity.
What do you do as the LGBT liaison?
My main function is to serve as a point of contact for people in the LGBTQ community to help ensure the concerns of the community are being heard by staff in the City Manager’s Office. I hope to also work to implement some of the other suggested programs from the HRC Municipal Equality Index in the city.
How did the city determine that there was a need for this position?
Our city manager feels strongly about using our HRC city scorecard to find ways to better serve people in the City of Lawrence. The creation of a liaison in our office seemed like something we could do that might make an impact to the LGBQT community in our city.
Have you received any negative responses regarding the position or your placement in the position? Please explain.
No, exactly the opposite! All of the responses I have received have been from people excited about the opportunity to make connections between city staff and resources available in our city for members of the LGBTQ community.
Is the position of LGBT liaison in Lawrence unique, or do other towns/cities in Kansas also have this position?
Lawrence is the only city in Kansas that reported having this position in the 2017 HRC Index.
What can the Lawrence LGBT community do to help make your position more effective?
Call or email me about issues or concerns facing the LGBTQ community that the city should be aware of. 785-832-3400, [email protected]] It would also help to hear from organizations and/or individuals that provide services and/or other resources to those in the LGBTQ community. I see my role as a facilitator, so the more I know about resources available in the city, the better job I can do connecting people.
Do you interact with the local LGBT organizations such as Equality Kansas, NetWorQ, or KU’s Spectrum to become more aware of the community’s needs?
I haven’t had the opportunity to have much interaction yet, but I definitely hope to in the future.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I have a 10-year-old daughter who keeps me pretty busy. I volunteer as a co-leader for her Girl Scout troop and serve as her taxi driver. I serve on the advisory board for Leadership Lawrence and love cheering on my Jayhawks! My husband and I are both movie junkies and enjoy going to see movies or watching them at home as much as possible.
And now something a little lighter! What is your favorite flower and why?
Gerber daisies! I love the variety of bright colors they come in. And to quote Kathleen Kelly [played by Meg Ryan] from the movie You’ve Got Mail, “They’re so friendly. Don’t you think they are the friendliest flower?” (Told you I love movies!)