Powering Strong Communities

Garden City, Kansas, Utility Completes Master Plan, Focuses on Maintaining High Levels of Reliability

In a recent Q&A with Public Power Current, Mike Muirhead, Public Utilities Director for the public power community of Garden City, Kansas, detailed a recently completed master plan for the city’s utility, as well as the steps that the Garden City utility has taken to improve reliability for the city while he has served as Public Utilities Director.

“We just recently completed a master plan for the electric utility to serve as a guide for the next several years and provide continuity for newer staff that will soon come on board,” Muirhead said when asked to detail ongoing or recently completed Garden City utility projects.

He also noted that there has been an upgrade to utility billing software, which he compared to “going from a 56 Chevy model to a 2024 hybrid SUV with all the bells and whistles.”

In addition, Muirhead noted that the utility has completed the installation of a dual feed load of 12 megawatts for a large industrial customer “and continue to install the necessary facilities for residential development as the Governing Body has a goal of an additional 3,000 residential units by 2030.”


During his tenure as Public Utilities Director, the Garden City utility has been recognized as a Reliable Public Power Provider by APPA.

Muirhead has served in his current role at Garden City since 2010.

In the Q&A, Muirhead detailed the steps that the Garden City utility has taken to improve reliability for the city while he has served as Public Utilities Director.

The dedication to service by utility employees, “which is one of our core values,” has had the biggest impact on improving reliability through additional training, “allowing them to tour other larger municipal electric systems and to have input into system modifications,” Muirhead said.

“We have upgraded our AMI and SCADA systems, started a pole testing and replacement program, and have replaced over 250 poles that needed attention,” he noted.

Utility staff now have direct access to substation breakers “for a much faster response time by eliminating the need to go through the electric coop for delivery of power.”

The utility is also continuing to work on voltage conversion plans and the conversion of portions of the overhead system to underground “where everything is placed in conduit,” he said.

Muirhead has various areas of responsibilities which include strategic planning for developing long-term plans and goals for the electric utility, aligning them with the overall objectives of the City of Garden City, with the overall objective of ensuring smooth and efficient operations, including the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity.

“Of course, there is managing the budget of approximately $40 million for the electric utility, monitoring expenses, ensuring financial sustainability, and ensuring compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and industry standards related to electricity generation and distribution. Plus, with any electric utility, there is planning for the maintenance, repair, and expansion of the electric utility infrastructure, including power plants, substations, transmission lines, and distribution networks,” he said.

In 2023, Muirhead received the Mark Crisson Leadership and Managerial Excellence Award during the American Public Power Association’s National Conference in Seattle, Washington.

The award recognizes managers at a utility, joint action agency, or state or regional association who steer their organizations to new levels of excellence, lead by example, and inspire staff to do better. 

Community Engagement

Muirhead also detailed the ways in which the Garden City utility engages with the Garden City community to make residents aware of the value of public power.

“We have a ‘power town’ that was purchased and set up by our Journeyman Linemen, who provide a safety demonstration for the elementary schools in Garden City,” he noted.

In addition, the utility assists in providing electric power for a “Food Truck Friday,” where several mobile food vendors set up next to a park.

Also, “We have a booth and bucket truck rides during Fall Fest, where 10-15 thousand people attend, and the line for the bucket truck rides extends way up the block.”

Crews also install Christmas decorations and provide the Mayor with a button to push to turn all of the lights on. 

“Perhaps one of the best ways we engage the community is by providing reliable, safe, low-cost electric power for the Garden City community on a 24-hour/365-day need, just as we have done since 1914 when the municipal electric utility was created,” he said.

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