County Update: Commissioner Klika details focus on safety, transit, parks and aging population

Commissioner Steve Klika.

Each week we provide a member of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners the opportunity to share an update on what issues are catching their attention. This week, we have a column from 3rd District Commissioner Steve Klika.

Since being elected to the Johnson County Commission almost six years ago, I have had the opportunity to witness first-hand both the amazing growth and pride shared among our community members, as well as the challenges we face in meeting the future needs of our young people, our working community and our senior population. My priorities continue to focus on ensuring continued public safety, providing outstanding quality of life and advocating for our aging population. And, although the BOCC does not directly impact public education, I am well aware that the high-quality education provided by our six school districts is the major economic driver in our county. One of the main reasons people move to Johnson County is because of its amazing school districts.

Before taking my oath as a County Commissioner, I spent eight years serving on the Blue Valley Board of Education, where I focused on developing and maintaining outstanding public education for K-12. I believe in my heart that Johnson County is home to the six best school districts in the nation.

As evidenced by a recent 2019 Community Survey, citizens list “personal safety/feeling safe” and a “low crime rate” as the number one reason for living in Johnson County (followed closely by the quality of our public schools). I remain committed to working closely with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department to ensure the Sheriff’s office has everything it needs to execute their jobs safely, efficiently and effectively.
In the same survey, Johnson County residents confirmed what I already knew. Ninety-seven percent of county residents indicated that Johnson County is a great place to live. Specifically, I have focused my efforts on improving public transportation, enhancing our parks and advocating for our rapidly growing senior population.

Having served as the chair of Johnson County Transit for six years, as well as having served 12 years on the Oklahoma City Transit Authority, I am passionate about finding the best solutions for public transportation, such as promoting microtransit, helping people get to and from work, and working with other agencies to develop innovative solutions to our public transportation needs. It has become clear that “big bus” transportation is not effective in Johnson County and I am committed to studying other transportation models that provide assistance with job access, on-demand assistance for our senior population, and transportation options for those with special needs.

We have more than ten million visits per year to our Johnson County Parks and Recreation facilities. This tells me that our community places great value in having parks in their community. Whether it is dog parks, inclusive playgrounds or soccer fields, our community demands top notch services and venues from their county leaders. I am proud to say we have one of the best park systems in the nation, but still have work to do. I am focused on improving our soccer and baseball fields at Heritage Park, as well as the Mid America Sports Complex. My goal is to see that the fields are redeveloped and made more accessible. Also, after providing great leadership and helping to develop our parks system into a nationally recognized organization, the executive director of our Parks and Recreation Department, Jill Geller, has recently resigned. I can say without hesitation that Jill has definitely left our Parks and Recreation Department much better than she found it and I pledge to find an equally qualified replacement for her who will continue the work she started.

Finally, I have always been and continue to be a fierce advocate for our aging population. Not only do I fall within that category, but I have also served as a caregiver for my aging aunt and know the hurdles families face on a day-to-day basis. We need to make our senior services more accessible to our aging population, as well as their caregivers. I am particularly focused on our Meals on Wheels (MOW) program, which provides hot meals and personal interaction to homebound seniors. Solving the lack of on-demand transportation for seniors is also a priority of mine. Additionally, providing resources and personnel who can assist our senior population age in place is critical. Our local Area Agency on Aging provides many services the public doesn’t even know about. We must work to increase public awareness and availability of services. In response to the growing senior population projection, the Johnson County Commission on Aging is sponsoring an Aging Forum in October in hopes of gathering ideas and information which will assist the County with expanding existing programs, creating new opportunities and budgeting for future needs. I encourage those who are interested to go onto Facebook and “like” the Johnson County Commission on Aging to receive updates and information about local events and services. For additional information on senior services, call the Area Agency on Aging at 913-715-8861.

I am privileged to serve as a Johnson County Commissioner and look forward to remaining focused on these issues. As always, I welcome your comments and concerns.