Sarah Plinsky was hired as the County Administrator in September 2019 after serving in the interim position for nine months.
Before becoming the administrator, she had served as the Assistant County Administrator since December 2010. In that role, Sarah led the Administrative Services Department, which includes financial management, budget, human resources, risk management, worker’s compensation and purchasing functions for the organization.
Previously, Sarah was the Assistant to the County Manager in Johnson County, Kansas. In Johnson County, she also served as the Interim Assistant County Manager for the Community Services Team and as Interim Director of Public Health.
Sarah is a graduate of Leadership ICMA (International City and County Management Association) and the Senior Executive Institute at the University of Virginia. Sarah holds a B.A. in Political Science and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Kansas.
By Karrey Britt | Communications Specialist
Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky credits a Lawrence High School program for piquing her interest in government.
“Youth in Local Government” was a program where juniors learned about local government by attending board meetings. Students served on all types of boards: city, county, health department, hospital, fairgrounds and aviation. Sarah spent her year with the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, which seemed fitting because she had worked as a summer day camp counselor for the agency as a teen. “I went to their meetings and watched and learned. Sometimes they would ask for my feedback, and sometimes they wouldn’t,” she said. “Being able to hear conversations about park needs and plans was a great learning experience.”
After graduating from LHS in 1992, she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas. “While I was in college, I thought I wanted to work for the state because I thought local government was mostly about roads and sewers,” Sarah said. “It is about roads and sewers, but it's also about people. That’s when I decided that I wanted to work for local government.”
She began her career by working as an analyst for the City of Ottawa for two years. She then spent 11 years working for Johnson County. She started as a management analyst and left as assistant to the county manager. During her time at Johnson County, she served in various positions, including: interim public health director, interim assistant county manager for community services and capital improvement plan coordinator.
In December 2010, she landed her “dream job” of working for Douglas County. “I’ve lived my entire life in Lawrence, except for one year during college. I love this community," Sarah said, adding she practically grew up across the street from the Douglas County Courthouse in the Watkins Museum of History, where her father, Steven Jansen, was the longtime director. Sarah was hired as the assistant county administrator, and her responsibilities included: overseeing human resources, risk management, worker’s compensation, personnel budgeting and capital planning.
In December 2018, Craig Weinaug retired as county administrator after 26 years in the position. Sarah agreed to serve as the interim county administrator and take on additional responsibilities. In September 2019, she was named County Administrator.
Sarah works closely with Douglas County Commissioners as well as elected officials and department leaders. She oversees Douglas County’s $96 million annual budget and about 400 employees. “Douglas County is growing and we have to continue to evolve and grow with it,” Sarah said. Among her goals:
“I love serving this community and this organization. It is always something different,” she said.
Sarah and her husband, Jeff, have a daughter, who attends Johnson County Community College, and a son, who is a senior at Free State High School. Sarah said her children are fourth generation 4-Hers. Sarah is a community leader for the Lone Star 4-H Club. During the Douglas County Fair, she oversees the visual arts entries as a superintendent. One of her proudest accomplishments as assistant county administrator was overseeing $7 million in improvements at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. This included construction of a new meeting space, open pavilion and outdoor arena. The work was completed in 2017.
Sarah also has volunteered to participate twice in Transformations, an annual Lawrence event where about 10 people work with female impersonation consultants to compete in a pageant that includes three categories: gown, talent and interview. The winner takes home $10,000 for the charity of their choice. Sarah’s stage name was Mae West Lawrence and for her talent, she performed a dance number with a puppet and close friend. Sarah was the co-winner in 2014 and first-runner up in an all-star event in 2017. Her charity was Just Food. “It was grueling and a lot of work, but it also was an unforgettable experience,” she said.
Her onstage talent was no surprise to those who knew Sarah from her high school and college years when she was active in theater. She received a creative and performing arts scholarship at KU, where she performed at Murphy Hall.
Besides singing karaoke, Sarah enjoys gardening, scrapbooking, kayaking and collecting vintage dishes. She’s also a huge Disney fan. “It’s the most magical place on Earth.”