Ed Eilert, chair of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners, has been named one of two recipients of the Outstanding Kansas Citian of the Year award.
The other award recipient is former Gen. Richard Myers, a retired general in the United States Air Force who served as the 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Myers, who now serves as president of Kansas State University in Manhattan, was born and raised in the Shawnee Mission area and is a 1960 graduate of Shawnee Mission North.
Established in 1973 by historical society The Native Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City, the award is designed to recognize individuals who have contributed to the well being and/or historic preservation of the greater Kansas City metro area, through their professional work, civic engagement or volunteerism, or who have simply become part of Kansas City’s history.
“This year, we are recognizing two individuals who have roots in their service to Johnson County,” said Gary Hicks, a member and past president of The Native Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City. “We couldn’t decide on which of the two, so we opted to have both of them be co-recipients of this award.”
A graduate of Emporia State University and an Overland Park resident for the past five decades, Eilert served on the Overland Park city council as councilman and mayor for a combined 28 years. He also served four years as Fourth District Commissioner for the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners. He is serving his third term as board chair.
Under Eilert’s leadership, Overland Park experienced economic growth, the organization noted in its nomination. He has also served on nearly a dozen boards, including those for the Mid-America Regional Council and Enterprise Center of Johnson County.
Hicks said Eilert is “a man of extraordinary integrity” in areas of leadership and engagement.
“He puts integrity far above politics, far above the interest of personal relationships,” Hicks said. “I appreciate the man’s character, and I appreciate his vision for our region.”
Eilert said he was “quite surprised but very honored” to receive the award. But he credits the community’s commitment to education and economic development, as well as county services like those provided by Johnson County Park and Recreation District and Johnson County Med-Act, as key roles for Johnson County’s success.
“That commitment to education at the high school level is one of the linchpins that makes our county, our communities, a great place to live and raise a family,” Eilert said. “It (Johnson County) is unique, it’s successful, because leadership in those areas, including the county and the cities, work together to make our community the outstanding community it is.”
About Myers’s nomination
John Dillingham, another member of the organization, said The Native Sons and Daughters selected Myers for his “illustrious career,” particularly in his military leadership role during the early 2000s. Myers also supports historic preservation efforts at the National World War I Museum and Memorial.
After graduating from K-State, Myers served 40 years in the United States Air Force before retiring in 2005. Notably, he was the acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I had a meeting on Capitol Hill; by the time I got there, the first tower had been hit,” he recalled. “The second tower had been hit, we left the meeting, we came back to the Pentagon (and) somewhere in that transition, we got the report the Pentagon had been struck.
“When I got back there, the flames were coming out of one part of the building, and we went into the heart of the building, the National Military Command Center, which was not damaged, and tried to figure out what just happened and how do we protect America. It was a really interesting day.”
Myers has also served on the MRI Global board of directors and other military charities involved in the Kansas City area.
“I’m still soaking it in,” Myers said of the award. “I’m honored that they would think I’m worthy of that.”
Eilert and Myers will receive their awards at The Native Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City’s 48th Annual Gala in November.