Over the past two decades, the proportion of minority residents in Johnson County cities has trended steadily upward. The make up of the area’s governing bodies, however, has remained overwhelmingly white and male.
An analysis of the city councils in the 14 municipalities within the Shawnee Mission School District area as well as the district’s board of education and the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners finds that after the swearing in ceremonies earlier this month, more than 95 percent of elected officials in the area are white. Census data from 2016 shows that 80 percent of Johnson County residents are white non-Hispanic.
The analysis also finds that women are significantly underrepresented on local governing bodies and in mayor’s offices. Women make up 51 percent of the Johnson County population, but just 36 percent of the elected officials. Five of the 14 Shawnee Mission area cities — Leawood, Shawnee, Prairie Village, Fairway and Westwood Hills — now have female mayors.
Among the other findings:
- White males occupy 61 percent of the elected positions on Shawnee Mission area governing bodies.
- White females occupy 34 percent of the elected positions on Shawnee Mission area governing bodies.
- There is just one non-white female among the 128 elected officials serving the Shawnee Mission area.
- There is just one African American among the 128 elected officials serving the Shawnee Mission area.
- The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners and the Lake Quivira city council are composed entirely of white males. They are the only elected bodies in the area without a woman.
- 11 of the 16 governing bodies do not have any minority members.
Recent analyses of racial and ethnic diversity by United Community Services of Johnson County find that population growth among minority groups here is far outpacing that of white non-Hispanics. From 2000 to 2014, Johnson County saw total population growth of approximately 27 percent, with more than half of that growth coming from non-white groups. In that period, the proportion of white non-Hispanic residents shrank from 89 percent to 80 percent. Among residents under age 18, 26 percent of the population in 2014 was racially/ethnically diverse.
In a 2017 update, UCS of Johnson County noted that since 2010, the number of racially/ethnically diverse residents in the county has increased by more than 11 percent while the number of non-Hispanic white residents increased less than 3 percent.
“This trend is likely to continue,” reads UCS’s 2017 fact sheet. “Data indicates that there is more diversity in the younger age groups than in the older age groups, which suggests that Johnson County’s population will become more racially and ethnically diverse as the current population ages.”
In 2015, the Johnson County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced it was mounting an effort to get more minority residents involved in city councils, school boards and government committees.