JoCo parks board taps current deputy Jeff Stewart to replace outgoing executive director

Johnson County Park and Recreation District Deputy Director Jeff Stewart speaking at the grand opening ceremony for Meadowbrook Park in Prairie Village earlier this summer. Stewart will become the organization’s executive director next month.

The Johnson County Park and Recreation District Board of Commissioners has tapped its deputy director to take over leadership of the organization following the departure of executive director Jill Geller next month.

Jeff Stewart, who has been with JCPRD since 2016, will replace Geller in the agency’s top position effective Sept. 21.

“Jeff has served our agency very well in his role as Deputy Director for the past three-and-a-half years, and he’s certainly ready for this next step,” Geller said in a statement. “As the best park and recreation agency in the nation, JCPRD deserves the best executive director. There is no doubt that we have that in Jeff. Under his leadership, there are great times ahead for our organization. I will be watching, cheering for you, and celebrating JCPRD’s many successes from California.”

Stewart has spent a quarter century in parks and recreation operations. Prior to his arrival at JCPRD, he had served as the director of the city of Gardner’s parks and recreation department since 2000. He had also worked in posts for the cities of Independence and Junction City, Kan.

With JCPRD, he’s been a public face for the organization as it has worked on a number of high-profile projects, including Meadowbrook Park in Prairie Village and the organization’s Legacy Plan. In his role as deputy director, he has been the superintendent of JCPRD’s Administrative Services Division

In announcing the decision to promote Stewart to the executive director role, JCPRD Board Chair Steve Baru hailed Stewart’s leadership abilities.

“Because of the demonstrated talent we already have in house, we knew we wouldn’t need to look far to find our next leader,” Baru said. “Jeff has proven his leadership skills as deputy director and the board saw him as a natural fit to step in and fill the executive director position. We are lucky to have Jeff and his talents to lead the JCPRD into the future.”

Stewart was a member of the Kansas State University baseball team, and earned a degree in parks and recreation administration. He and his wife of 24 years, Christine, have two sons ages 21 and 17.

Geller announced in July that she had accepted the position of Director of Parks, Recreation, and Libraries for the city of Roseville, Calif., in suburban Sacramento.