(MANHATTAN, KS – October 13, 2023) — The City of Manhattan is mourning the death of a longtime leader and friend, Robert K. Ott, who started with the City as City Engineer in 2005 and was named Director of Public Works in 2014.
Ott was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and died Wednesday, October 11 surrounded by family.
Ott inspired coworkers with his optimism, humor, and perseverance throughout his career. He applied his exceptional engineering skills to his treatment, producing detailed timelines, task lists, and key milestones. Despite the challenges, he remained committed to family, coworkers, community, and work.
“Rob was an amazing, dedicated and trusted leader who we could always count on to be ready and ahead of any challenge we might be facing, regardless of the time of day,” said City Manager Ron Fehr. “His accomplishments are monumental, some which can be easily seen and others that are not so obvious, but equally important. Rob’s cancer battle was heroic and inspiring; he will be greatly missed.”
Ott’s accomplishments while serving the community are countless. He led redevelopments of the Downtown and Aggieville districts, utility relocations for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, expansion of major roadways along the Edge Collaboration District, and years of partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to bolster the Manhattan levee system.
Ott also secured millions of dollars in state and federal funding and led many projects to enhance the City’s streets and infrastructure.
In February 2023, the City opened a new joint maintenance facility that houses more than 100 City employees from the public works and parks and recreation departments. Ott championed the project for his coworkers, improving working conditions and creating efficiencies for City services to the community. City staff surprised Ott at the ribbon-cutting by dedicating the facility in his honor and naming it the Robert K. Ott Municipal Services Facility.
Ott graduated with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Michigan Technological University. From 1997 to 2000, he served his country as a Combat Engineer Officer at Fort Riley in the 70th Engineer Battalion. From 2000 to 2005, he worked at the Kansas Department of Transportation. During his career, he was involved in the American Public Works Association and served as president of the Kansas Chapter.
Ott is survived by his wife, Kim, and son, Landon.
City staff will join with his family and many friends to celebrate his life from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, November 4, 2023, at the Robert K. Ott Municipal Services Facility, located at 1000 Levee Drive. Expressions of sympathy may be sent to his family in care of the City of Manhattan, 1101 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, KS 66502. His obituary may be viewed here.