It wasn’t an optimal first week on the job for Jason Klumb.
The newly appointed regional administrator for the General Services Administration barely got comfortable in his new office early in 2010 when front-page news landed on his desk describing environmental contamination and health concerns of workers at the Bannister Federal Complex and the nearby Kansas City Plant that makes non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons.
The Bannister Federal Complex in south Kansas City, where 20,000 people worked at its peak following World War II, had become contaminated, and workers wondered whether their exposure to toxins jeopardized their health.
The stories would persist during a trying time for Klumb, the agency and its employees, and those affected by the health concerns.
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“We addressed questions and concerns from employees, people in the neighborhood and members of the community,” Klumb said this week.
Klumb spent his last day as regional administrator for the GSA on Friday. He announced his resignation to employees last week, the same week Congress approved a continuing resolution to fund the federal government that included $200 million for the demolition and remediation of the Bannister Federal Complex to assist in its eventual transfer to a private owner for redevelopment.
That timing meant it made as much sense to leave his office Friday as any. As a President Barack Obama appointee, Klumb would have had to step down anyway by the time Donald Trump assumes the presidency on Jan. 20.
The GSA is essentially the federal government’s landlord. It also oversees the construction of many types of federal projects for facilities like courthouses and agency office spaces.
For a city like Kansas City, where the federal government is among the top employers, the regional GSA administrator is a position that carries influence.
Klumb’s tenure intersected with several key junctures for the GSA. Since 2010, the GSA cut the ribbon on the Kansas City National Security Campus, the $850 million facility at Missouri Highway 150 and Botts Road that replaced the old Kansas City Plant.
The GSA also started slowly decommissioning the Bannister Federal Complex. In 2015, the GSA moved 1,000 federal employees from the Bannister Federal Complex to leased space at 2300 Main St. in downtown Kansas City.
“It’s a beautiful space,” Klumb said of the office environs at Two Pershing Square, previously the headquarters for the law firm now known as Husch Blackwell. “I would argue that we have one of the premier locations and one of the best views of the city.”
The move was cheered by downtown boosters who saw the influx of workers coming to the inner core as a good thing. The lease is something of a tradeoff; for years, the federal government hoped to construct a new building in downtown Kansas City for federal employees, but the funding never materialized.
GSA signed a relatively short seven-year lease at Two Pershing Square, a possible signal that plans may someday re-emerge for a new federal office building.
Klumb isn’t specific about what he will do next. He suggests it will be in law.
“I anticipate I’ll return to the practice of law and hope to have a chance to do some good,” Klumb said. “Maybe explain this thing we do called government and how it works.”