How did you get started in Parks and Recreation more than 16 years ago?
My first job in municipal Parks & Recreation started right here in Lee’s Summit. In 2000 I lived in St. Louis and was looking for a career change. I applied for an entry-level Recreation Supervisor position with Lee’s Summit. The Superintendent of Recreation interviewed me and said I was overqualified for the position, but informed me she was leaving and asked if I was comfortable having my name and résumé shared with Tom Lovell. Three months later, I was hired as the Superintendent of Recreation Services. The rest, I guess you can say, is history.

Describe yourself in one word: Driven

What has surprised you most about this industry?
There are so many things I could mention. First, I would mention the collaborative nature of our profession. My peers from the region, state, and nation are always quick to share information, successes and failures. Second, the diversity of services delivered by Parks and Recreation agencies throughout the country. For example, agencies provide (not an all-inclusive list) parks, community centers, trails, aquatic centers, cemeteries, dog parks, ice rinks, greenways, blueways, lakes, beaches, cultural arts, fitness, lifetime skills like CPR and more.

Finally, I would say the impact Parks and Recreation has on a community. One standard often mentioned in the “Best Places to Live” rankings is recreational and leisure opportunities provided in a community. The organizations creating these rankings understand that parks and recreation services are critical to the quality of life experienced by its residents.

What do you feel are the top benefits our community gains from LSPR?
Great question! Quite honestly, the benefits are endless. We have identified over 600 benefits LSPR provides to our community, including: increased property values for homes located in close proximity to parks and trails; health benefits provided by our community centers, fitness programs, and parks; economic activity provided by cultural arts and sports events; over 300 part-time and season employment opportunities for our community with many of those for our youth seeking their first job; and construction projects that benefit local business such as architects, contractors, and skilled laborers. LSPR preserves green space, helps mitigate storm water issues, provides habitats for wildlife, and water proofs over 1,800 youth each year. I could continue, but the point being, parks and recreation provides many benefits most people don’t consider.

What’s the one thing you wish people knew about LSPR?
We are fiscally responsible and for every $1 entrusted to LSPR through the sales tax, we provide a return of $1.25 back to our community. I would also share that each and every employee at LSPR is dedicated to providing the best parks, facilities, programs, and special events possible. Our staff is passionate about serving our community.

As the new Administrator, what is your vision for the next five years?
Over the next five years we will be working diligently to implement many of the projects that were approved by our voters with the August 2016, ¼-cent sales tax extension. High on the list of projects are a field house, another community center, trails, neighborhood park renovations, and a wave pool at Summit Waves. Of course, the list could change as new opportunities become available. With each project, LSPR will continue to engage our community and celebrate our successes along the way. We will further reinforce our position as a leader in our community by adjusting to the changing needs of our community. Finally, LSPR will maintain our national accreditation and work toward winning a second gold medal from the National Recreation and Parks Association.

Are there any new projects that will be completed in 2018?
Lea McKeighan North Park will be completed in 2018 and we are very excited to open the park. Amenities will include a splash pad, outdoor ice rink, adventure playground, paved trails and support structures including concessions, restrooms and a shelter. Additional projects scheduled for 2018 include: a trailhead at Hartman Park, which will provide access to the Rock Island trail currently under construction by the Rock Island Railroad Authority and Jackson County; completed designs for park renovations at Summit Park and Howard Park; updates to the Greenway Master Plan; and a trail extension connecting Miller J. Fields Park to Langsford Park.

With it being the 50th Anniversary for LSPR, what do you feel have been its biggest milestones and accomplishments?
The growth of LSPR has been incredible. In 1968, LSPR was a very small department with a few employees and parks; and now, we manage over 1,300 acres of park land, three community centers, an outdoor aquatics park, an amphitheater, hundreds of programs, special events, and athletic programs ““ it’s amazing. In addition, LSPR has invested over $60 million in capital improvements thanks in part to voter approved sales taxes since 1998. 

Next, I would highlight the implementation of the Greenway and, in partnership with the Public Works Department, construction of over 72 miles of multi-use trails throughout Lee’s Summit. A major milestone was accomplished in 2016 with over a million people visiting one of LSPR’s parks, facilities, programs, or special events. I would also highlight winning the Gold Medal in 2010, which was validation from our peers nationally that Lee’s Summit has a premier parks and recreation system and one we should all be proud of.

Finally, I would share that LSPR has been an accredited agency since 2003, which requires a reaccreditation process every five years. Accreditation signifies that LSPR implements the best practices of our profession, engages in continual improvement, provides high quality services and experiences, and maintains excellence in operations and service.

How do you feel people’s viewpoint or expectation of LSPR has changed over the years?
Our community has come to expect the best from LSPR including high quality programs, parks and facilities that are well maintained, affordable, accessible, and fun. I think our community understands that LSPR is more than mowing grass and hiring referees. We provide services and experiences that contribute significantly to the quality of life enjoyed by our residents, and that is validated through the high rating we receive on our surveys as well as the strong voter support with the 2016 sales tax election (79 percent approval).

Tell us about your family.
I have two sons: Jarod, a 20 year-old sophomore at Colorado State University, majoring in chemistry, and Jay, a 17 year-old, junior at Lee’s Summit High School. I also have two dogs, BK and Benny.

What was your first job?
I worked at Burger King in my hometown of Great Bend, KS. I was 15 and made $2.85/hr.

What do you enjoy doing in your downtime?
I enjoy riding my bicycles (I have three), lifting weights, reading, and going to the movies.

What would you be doing if money were no object?
Name the adventure and I’d be in!

Favorite outdoor activity?
Riding my bicycles, but actually anything outdoors is cool (kayaking, hiking, SUP, climbing mountains, disk golf, pickleball).

Morning or evening person?
I like to get up early, workout and own the day!

Coffee or cocktails?
I hate coffee and really don’t drink cocktails. A glass of wine with dinner works for me.

What’s your favorite thing about Lee’s Summit?
Besides the parks? Actually that’s an easy question. The people! I have met so many wonderful people who care about Lee’s Summit and care about each other ““ it’s amazing. Our citizens are generous, engaged, thoughtful, and truly have a heart for service. Lee’s Summit is a special place, and I’m proud to call it home.