Leadership Overland Park Session 5 – City Day – Local Government

Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2012 by
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The big take-away for me from the afternoon session of Leadership Overland Park was that you have to get involved in your community. You can’t complain and expect things to get better. Citizen involvement is how changes get made. And there are many ways to get involved, you don’t have to run for office, there are lots of opportunities to work on committees, volunteer, and even working with kids on their sports teams.

At City Hall, we heard from City Manager Bill Ebel about the redevelopment projects they are currently working on, including 95th & Metcalf and the Vision Metcalf Plan. Deputy City Manager Christy Stallings is focused on city finances and discussed the decisions to raise the City’s mill levy this year. Even with the higher levy, Overland Park still has the lowest mill levy of its neighboring cities. I enjoyed learning more about Mayor Carl Gerlach. Being mayor in Overland Park is only a “part time” job as he also works a “regular” job from 8-5. He talked us through a typical day for him and his level of commitment to this “part time” job is pretty incredible. He spoke about his efforts at building relationships with the other mayors in the area and how all the Johnson County mayors get together once a month to discuss issues affecting each of them and the community as a whole. I left with a sense Mayor Gerlach does a lot of good things for this city.

Our class then got the opportunity for a Jack Stack barbecue dinner with the city councilmembers. I sat at a table with Councilmember Paul Lyons. He is one of the 2 councilmembers representing Ward 2 in the northern half of the city. One area that got him more involved in the city was his participation in the Neighborhood Conservation Program. This program aims to preserve and improve those neighborhoods in the northern half of the city that do not have a homeowner’s association and that are starting to show signs of age and decline. His recommendation for all of us was to strive to become more active in our communities.

Like the Mayor, the councilmembers have other full time jobs and are members of the city council on a part-time basis. Our meeting with them coincided with one of the city’s scheduled council meetings. After dinner, our class attended the council meeting. This meeting was quick and to the point so those parties with an eye on the KU championship game could get in front of their televisions in time. But even though it was short it allowed us a chance to see government at work.

I am also impressed by the number of “difference makers” that make time to come talk to our group. Today, and all our sessions at Leadership Overland Park over the past few months, we’ve heard from people who are involved in big decisions at all levels helping to make Overland Park the community it has become.

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