At State of the Cities luncheon, northeast JoCo mayors highlight growth, success of local government

Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach highlighted the new development underway across the city, from BluHawk down south to the new mixed-use projects in downtown Overland Park.

Bulldozers and cranes across the area are evidence of continued reinvestment and growth in northeast Johnson County, mayors of 9 Shawnee Mission area municipalities told the crowd at Thursday’s State of the Cities luncheon.

The annual event, which is organized by the NEJC Chamber, brings elected officials and business community leaders together to highlight the positive developments in each city over the past year. And perhaps the most common theme from the mayors’ addresses was that new development signals a continued interest from both residents and businesses.

In Mission, the long-stalled Mission Gateway project is finally out of the ground, and the coming food hall curated by chef Tom Colicchio should be a big draw to the city, said Mayor Ron Appletoft.

“It’s going to make this a metro, regional attraction,” Appletoft said.

In Prairie Village, the redevelopment of the former Meadowbrook Country Club land with luxury apartments and homes as well as a massive new county park highlight the city’s work to cater to changing wants and needs from residents.

Westwood Hills Mayor Paula Schwach said “connectivity, not extreme partisanship, makes progress possible.”

In Merriam, the city is embarking on a community center project that Mayor Ken Sissom said would likely be “the biggest initiative in our history.”

And in Overland Park, Mayor Carl Gerlach pointed to the slew of new mixed-use projects in downtown as evidence of regreening.

But, noted one local mayor, governing in America these days isn’t all sunshine. Growing partisanship has ground the federal government practically to a halt, said Westwood Hills Mayor Paula Schwach. She used yesterday’s address to call for civility and consensus building at the local level.

“Our federal government is dysfunctional,” Schwach said. “At the state level we now have divided government — and it holds promise, but it has yet to be tested. That leaves local government — non-partisan local government, the government closest to the people — to act not from intuitive response based on some interest or party label, but based on the common good of rationality. It’s ours to act with civility and common sense, to listen respectfully during exchanges of viewpoint, and search for consensus…Connectivity, not extreme partisanship, makes progress possible.”