As city prepares for transition at the top, Roeland Park’s living mayors gather to share lessons, set tone

Roeland Park mayors (from left) Judy Katz, Joel Marquardt, Adrienne Foster, Steve Petrehn, Joan Wendel and Lori Hirons gathered for a group portrait at city hall Wednesday.
Roeland Park mayors (from left) Judy Katz, Joel Marquardt, Adrienne Foster, Steve Petrehn, Joan Wendel and Lori Hirons gathered for a group portrait at city hall Wednesday.

Roeland Park politics have gotten a reputation for contentiousness in recent years.

The city council’s deliberations over issues the like the anti-discrimination ordinance, community development and parks funding have not infrequently gotten heated, with factions of more progressive-minded officials butting heads with more conservative ones. But Mayor Joel Marquardt says he’s seen plenty of willingness to work for the greater good of the city even among people with sharply different political views.

To help illustrate the point, Marquardt — who is not seeking a second term — this week convened a gathering of the six living Roeland Park mayors, whose tenure in city hall stretches back to 1989. On Wednesday, former mayors Judy Katz, Joan Wendel, Lori Hirons, Steve Petrehn and Adrienne Foster joined Marquardt at city hall for a group portrait before several of them headed out for lunch together.

Part of the impetus for the gathering was the death earlier this year of Mike Shartzer, who held the office from 1981 to 1989, when he was succeeded by Katz.

“I like showing that I’ve learned something from every one of you,” Marquardt said to the group Wednesday, “and that we’ve all done something for the city.”

Foster’s notes from her time in office before Marquardt took over in 2013 were hugely helpful as he got oriented, he said. Petrehn and Hirons had recently offered advice on community planning and development challenges. Katz had given him great advice about campaigning and connecting with the community. With a change in the top office guaranteed after this November’s elections, Marquardt wants to emphasize the contributions of mayors of a variety of political views over the past decades.

“There’s always animosity about certain bills here and there,” Marquardt said. “But in general I want everybody to see the overriding factor is that we’re all part of Roeland Park, and there is a continuity about working for what’s best.”

Petrehn agreed.

“The city moved forward under each one of us,” Petrehn said.