Topeka lobbyist John Federico is leaving as executive director of Leadership Kansas, which has trained luminaries in state politics and business for 40 years.
Federico has administered the program on behalf of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce since 2004.
The chamber ran Leadership Kansas from 1979 until 2003 before contracting out the program.
Federico is departing amid a reorganization in which the Kansas chamber will assume more direct control of the organization moving forward.
“John and his team have done a terrific job overseeing the program and we thank them for their efforts and years of service,” chamber CEO Alan Cobb wrote in a letter to program alumni Monday.
The chamber will hire a staffer to oversee Leadership Kansas, which each year selects 40 civic leaders to participate in the seven-month program running from April to October.
Over the years, the participants have included a Who’s Who of Kansas politics and business.
They included U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran; former Gov. Bill Graves; C.Q. Chandler IV, chairman and chief executive of Intrust Bank; former Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger; and retired Brig. Gen. Deborah Rose, the first woman to reach the rank of general in the Kansas National Guard.
“This is actually all very positive,” Federico said. “It’s been 15 really good years. I’ve met a lot of people. We did a lot of good for the state. We got them enthused about going back to their communities and trying to get engaged on any level.”
Correspondence and interviews indicated that there’s been some tension as the chamber moves to more directly oversee the leadership program.
The Leadership Kansas Board of Trustees disagreed with changes that the chamber wanted to make to the program, according to a letter Federico sent program alumni last week.
Federico’s letter indicated that the chamber wanted to change the role and makeup of the program’s board.
Also, the letter said the chamber intended to remake the committee that selects each class of participants as well as the composition of the participating classes.
His letter said also said the chamber wanted more control and input on the topics and presenters for the sessions.
Federico said he recognized the chamber’s authority to make those changes because Leadership Kansas is a chamber affiliate. The program is under the oversight of the Kansas Chamber Education Foundation.
Federico said neither he nor his staff “begrudge the chamber for doing what they feel is in their best interest, while also understanding and applauding the efforts of the majority of the LK Board of Trustees for fighting for what they feel so strongly about, the preservation of the program in a manner alumni were generally pleased with.”
Federico said his team offered opinions about the proposed changes and then stepped away, noting he was under contract with the chamber to run the program.
“As negotiations intensified, we were caught in the middle so we divorced ourselves from any further negotiations,” he wrote.
“We remained hopeful that a compromise could be met. But it appears both sides are at an impasse, and negotiations have appeared to have stopped…”
Cobb said the criteria for selection to Leadership Kansas will remain the same. Chamber membership will not be a requirement to participate.
“The best and brightest of Kansas will be sought, whether they be from the public sector, the private sector or the nonprofit sector,” Cobb said.
His letter did not address any forthcoming changes but indicated how the chamber had been working with the Leadership Kansas advisory committee in recent months.
Cobb said the meetings focused on updating the program’s internal guidance documents and to get more chamber members and the business community involved with the program.
“Unfortunately, those conversations were not productive,” he wrote.
Cobb also said that a Leadership Kansas board member tried to establish ownership of the Leadership Kansas program by filing a service mark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office with himself as the owner.
“To be clear, there is no legitimate legal question regarding the ownership or control of Leadership Kansas by the Kansas Chamber Education Foundation and the Kansas Chamber,” Cobb wrote in his letter.
“This LK Advisory Board member has no personal right to own the Leadership Kansas name,” he wrote.
Cobb said the “inexplicable attempt to take the program away from the Foundation Board and the Kansas Chamber and make it his own demanded action.”
As a result, he said, the foundation board decided to protect the program by bringing it back in house.
“LK will continue to bring leaders and future leaders together where they can find common ground to learn and grow from each other,” Cobb wrote.