He may have managed the city of Independence differently, but he at least kept a great sense of humor.

He may have managed the city of Independence differently, but he at least kept a great sense of humor.

And Keith Wilson Jr. “always spoke with great authority, no matter what the subject,” says former Independence mayor Barbara Potts.

Wilson, who served as Independence city manager twice – once in the 1960s and later from 1980 to 1986 – died Wednesday in Denver. He was 82. As a lawyer who also worked as the Missouri assistant attorney general, Wilson’s managerial style differed from that of more recent Independence city managers, according to several Independence City Council members who served during the 1980s.

“He was more of a negotiator than a manager – I don’t believe he had ever had any specific managerial experiences before,” says Potts, who served on the City Council from 1978 to 1982 and was Independence mayor from 1982 to 1990. “He had political skills like you might expect of a lot of lawyers and that was helpful for him. He certainly didn’t have the managerial style that we’ve had with our last two very professional managers (Larry Blick and Robert Heacock). He was a little more political. I don’t mean than in a disrespectful way; it’s just who he was.”

With a laugh, Potts remembered Wilson’s “filing system” inside his City Hall office – every seat on the couch and all of his chairs included stacks and piles of papers, “which you had to move in order to sit down,” Potts says.

Wilson also worked as the president and chief executive officer for the University of Health Sciences in Kansas City. Following his time as city manager, he also wrote a regular column for The Examiner.

“He was a friend of everybody’s – employees, elected officials, citizens – he got along with everybody,” Potts says. “That’s not always easy when you’re in the city manager’s position, and you’ve got people coming from different directions and political positions. He was good at mending fences, and he had a twinkle in his eye.”

Marilyn Wright, who served on City Council from 1980 to 1984, described Wilson’s leadership style as “fun.”

“He always had an answer for anybody questioning his decisions,” Wright says. “He took a few shots at me along the way, but I really, really liked him on a personal basis. He was a very gentlemanly good friend, and I will appreciate that always. He was very good to me.”