OSAWATOMIE — It seems politics played a heavy role in establishing a U.S. Coast Guard base of operations in Kansas 30 years ago this month.
The Coast Guard’s Pay and Personnel Center marked its third decade in Topeka on Sept. 19, but initial attempts to contact Capt. Stuart Lebruska were stymied after his administrative assistant passed along the message that such answers could be found on the PPC’s website.
Twenty-four hours later, Lebruska said he wasn’t ducking media calls, but instead was tied up in meetings all day, a fact that wasn’t made clear at first.
Lebruska said the PPC — which manages pay and personnel services to all Coast Guard active duty, reserve, retiree and annuitant members — was relocated from Washington D.C. in 1982 with some encouragement from a few of Kansas’ political heavyweights. At the time, Kansas Sen. Bob Dole was the second highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, and his wife Elizabeth Dole was U.S. Secretary of Transportation, which oversaw the Coast Guard.
“Politics being what it is I think the Doles had quite a bit to do with us getting here,” Lebruska said.
Combined with a desire to decentralize the Federal government in the waning years of the Cold War and the goal of a centrally located office from which to send out payroll checks and other paperwork, Lebruska said Topeka was a natural fit. But with most of the PPC’s work transitioning to electronic distribution, it begs the question whether they would be better suited to a location closer to other Coast Guard facilities.
“I think it’s a moot point to be honest with you,” Lebruska said. “We could be positioned anywhere. Here is just as good a place as any, and from a cost perspective moving us is going to be costly.”