Robert Kipp, who served as Kansas City’s city manager for a decade in the 1970s and ‘80s before serving in several executive roles at Hallmark, died Tuesday. He was 89.
Known as Bob, Kipp served as city manager from 1974 to 1983 under mayors Charlie Wheeler and Richard Berkley. During Kipp’s final year, The Star reported, city council members often called him “one of the best, if not the best, city managers in the nation.”
Before City Hall, Kipp served as a communications officer in the Air Force during the Korean War, according to his obituary. When he returned to Lawrence, where his family settled, he earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas.
As city manager, The Star reported at the time, Kipp quickly “cultivated a reputation as a sound administrator” and a behind-the-scenes leader. During Kipp’s tenure, the city reacted “capably” when faced with crises, such as the 1977 flood that ravaged parts of the city and the 1979 collapse of the Kemper Arena roof.
His time as manager, however, was not always easy. Firefighters walked off the job and it was discovered that building inspectors in the Public Works Department were cheating.
“He did an outstanding job, considering the conditions that confronted him,” L.P. Cookingham, who served as city manager for 19 years, told The Star when Kipp, then 50, resigned amid turmoil at City Hall.
At the time, the editorial board of the Kansas City Times, The Star’s sister paper, called Kipp’s time at City Hall “constructive and innovative,” and described his record as admirable.
“Many public officials are given credit for working effectively behind the scenes to get things done,” the newspaper wrote. “Mr. Kipp is one who really did — and he repeatedly produced results for the public.”
Kipp then went to Hallmark, where he worked for more than 20 years. He served as president of Crown Center Redevelopment Corp. and director of the Hall Family Foundation.
Among his accolades, Kipp was once named Kansas Citian of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce. He served on numerous boards, including at the Kansas City Symphony, which said he loved attending concerts.
“His special love of the arts and education is evident through his enthusiastic service to so many nonprofit organizations,” Shirley Bush Helzberg, former chairwoman of the symphony board, said in a statement. “I am a better person because of him and could not have achieved much of what I did without his wise counsel.”
In his obituary, Kipp’s loved ones said his private world was “an education in the richness of life.”
“His enthusiasms were surprisingly eclectic: cooking, photography, poetry, unusual automobiles, popcorn, Monty Python, the University of Kansas, children’s stories, audio equipment, fried chicken (with white gravy,) strange wristwatches, obscure books and movies, Chiefs football, Colorado mountain life and Costco,” according to his obituary.
Kipp is survived by his wife and his two sons.