City Hall's No. 2 administrator is leaving to take a job with the Kansas University athletic department.
Debbie Van Saun, assistant city manager since 2000, will become associate athletics director and senior women's administrator at KU.
"It just seemed like a good fit," said Van Saun, who has worked for City Hall more than 28 years. "Certainly a challenging future for me, by leaving the city of Lawrence and going to a different organization, but there's several parallels, I think."
Her departure caps nearly two years of turnover at the highest ranks of Lawrence city government.
Planning Director Linda Finger resigned under pressure in late 2005 after several developments were delayed because officials were uncertain the city's sewer system could handle projected growth. That same discontent helped sweep longtime City Manager Mike Wildgen out of office in May 2006; he was replaced by Dave Corliss, who had previously served alongside Van Saun as Wildgen's other assistant.
But Van Saun was emphatic that the churn didn't contribute to her decision to leave City Hall.
"No," she said. "This is an opportunity for me that is certainly something I wasn't expecting."
That opportunity comes with a raise. Van Saun was making $112,273 in her city job; she'll make $150,000 in the new post - although she said Monday she hasn't worked out a timeline for departure.
Commissioner Mike Dever said the city would miss Van Saun's experience.
"It's a pretty substantial loss for the city," he said, adding: "When people have been there a long time, it's implicit they know what they're doing."
In her new job, Van Saun will monitor KU's efforts to comply with Title IX and NCAA gender equity rules, prepare financial aid budget reports and oversee other NCAA governance issues.
She has longtime connections to KU sports; her husband, Paul, was a member of KU's 1973 Liberty Bowl football team.
"Debbie has shown outstanding management and leadership qualities during her many years in city government," KU athletic director Lew Perkins said in a press release. "Those skills, plus her obviously strong organizational skills, will serve as a tremendous asset to the University of Kansas."
Van Saun had served as the lone assistant city manager since Corliss' promotion. She said Monday that it would be "difficult" for City Hall to function, long-term, with only one assistant.
Corliss was out of town and unavailable to comment on plans to replace Van Saun. His office distributed a statement saying that he regretted her resignation, but congratulated her on the new job.
- Sports columnist Chuck Woodling contributed information to this story.