The race for Lenexa council Ward 4 has three new faces, triggering an August primary election. Incumbent, longtime Councilmember Andy Huckaba, announced his plans to retire at the end of his term, after serving 17 years on the council.
Lenexa residents Emily Behrmann and Linda Leeper face fellow challenger Julie Sayers, who announced her candidacy a few months ago.
A resident of Lenexa for the past 15 years, Behrmann is seeking office for the first time on the Lenexa council. She said she’s running because she loves her city and has a passion to see it grow.
“I really have been impressed with the innovative approach that they’ve taken to the new development at City Center,” she said. “I think it’s taken our city to a new level.”
Behrmann cited the collaboration of city leaders and staff “has just been amazing” in making Vision 2020 become a reality. Vision 2020 was a visionary process that made Lenexa City Center a reality.
“As we move forward now in the next 20 years, I see our city continuing to grow, continuing to be collaborative and innovative,” she said, citing the recent completion of the city’s third visioning process, Vision 2040. “I want to be a part of that, and I want to make sure that the people in my ward can take advantage of that, have a voice, and I want to be that voice for our community in the process of moving Lenexa forward.”
She believes her attitude as a forward thinker and innovator make her an ideal candidate for the council seat. She also hopes to continue to strengthen the arts and culture opportunities to the city.
Behrmann held roles in performing arts and fundraising at Johnson County Community College and the school’s foundation until she landed her current role as general manager of the Carlsen Center, the community college’s performing arts center.
She has bachelor’s degrees in music and business from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has worked for the Kansas City Symphony and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
Behrmann is a member of the Lenexa Arts Council and serves on the advisory boards of Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas School of Classical Ballet. She previously served on the executive board of the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce. She is an alumna of Leadership Lenexa, a Lenexa Chamber program.
She lives in Ward 4 with her husband, Ken Behrmann. They have two grown daughters.
A resident of Lenexa for the past 40 years, Leeper is also a newcomer to local politics, seeking a seat on the Lenexa council for the first time. She said she believes her background and experience working in Shawnee, focusing on businesses, economic development and community engagement, have prepared her for a role on the council.
“I view Lenexa as a very visionary city, and I too support the visionary efforts of communities, and so I thought I would be able to help contribute in that effort,” she said. “Lenexa has just been phenomenal in terms of their growth and development. With the visionary mayor and city council, they’ve been able to really bring Lenexa to one of the top tier cities in the area. I obviously would like to be engaged in that and help continue in that effort.”
Leeper recently retired after 17 years as president and chief executive officer of the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce. During her time with the chamber, she focused on economic development and tourism opportunities as well as downtown redevelopment and branding for the city.
Leeper said she engaged in some of the planning sessions of the visioning committee for Lenexa’s Vision 2040 plan.
“I have a passion for what I do; if I am elected, I will be 100 percent supportive of the efforts and the city council as a whole and (be) very attuned to listening to the residents and what we need as an overall community to continue with the success that Lenexa has,” she said.
Leeper previously owned The Everyday Gourmet, a coffee shop in Shawnee. She has a background in fashion merchandising, design, retail management and marketing for area Lee Apparel stores and has a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University.
Leeper is president of the Rotary Club of Shawnee Foundation and has also held board roles with the United Way of Johnson County, Friends of the Johnson County Museum, Friends of Shawnee Town, chamber organization MAKO, Johnson County Chambers President Council and Johnson County Public Policy Council. She volunteers for the Johnson County Christmas Bureau.
She lives in Ward 4 with her husband, Bob Leeper. They have a grown son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters.