Carl Gerlach, long-serving Overland Park mayor, won’t seek reelection

Carl Gerlach

A Johnson County native, Gerlach has served as Overland Park mayor since 2005. He touted his city's record of job growth and business investment during his four terms in office. File photo.

Carl Gerlach, Overland Park’s long-serving mayor, announced Tuesday he will not seek reelection this year.

In a press release, Gerlach touted the city’s record of job growth and business investment, among other accomplishments, during his four terms in office.

“I have strived for understanding, civility, respect, knowledge and a common purpose — to succeed and make Overland Park the city of choice for people and businesses to live and invest in,” Gerlach said in the release.

Before succeeding Ed Eilert as mayor in 2005, Gerlach served on the Overland Park City Council for 10 years.

‘Quality of life’ a top priority

Gerlach helmed Johnson County’s largest city through both the Great Recession of 2008 and the economic downturn last year prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that despite those challenges, Overland Park’s “quality of life and financial health” remained strong throughout his tenure. He noted that the city has added 25,000 jobs during his time in office and has also seen more than $1 billion in capital investment.

A steadfast proponent of public-private partnerships, Gerlach said Overland Park remains “attractive to both corporations and families.”

“I have provided the leadership to be sure we have the proper combination of residential, office and retail developments while protecting our neighborhoods, which has provided Overland Park residents with a high standard of living, low taxes and the financial ability to provide important services to all areas of our city,” Gerlach said.

Highly ranked schools, a low crime rate and financial stability, he said, contribute to make Overland Park a perennial entry on “best places to live” lists.

Recent challenges

In addition to the economic headwinds created by the pandemic, however, the last few years have presented some of the biggest challenges of Gerlach’s career.

That includes questions that continue to swirl around a severance agreement the city paid to former Overland Park police officer Clayton Jenison, who shot and killed teenager John Albers in 2018.

Last month, a member of the citizen-led police review board said Gerlach’s comments about Jenison’s severance agreement made during a 2020 press conference gave an “inaccurate impression” of the commission’s integrity.

At the same time, Overland Park over the past year, like many communities in the U.S.,  have experienced protests calling for police accountability and a broader reckoning with racism.

Soon after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last summer, Gerlach said Overland Park needed to “strive to build strong community relationships between our law enforcement organizations and the citizens they are sworn to protect.”

Tributes

The news Tuesday prompted other Overland Park officials and insiders to pay tribute to Gerlach.

City Councilmembers Chris Newlin weighed in.

Along with fellow Councilmember Logan Heley.

March Birch, who served as head of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce for 25 years and is now a governmental relations specialist at Lathrop, offered this statement, in part:

Carl brought the steady hand of leadership, collaboration and patience to the job as Mayor of Overland Park. He leaves a legacy of smart growth and  caring for this community. Carl recognized and embraced the need for partnerships to ensure success for our city. OP has received and continues to receive many national accolades as a great city to live work and play.  Among his many accomplishments, Carl  helped lead the revitalization of Downtown Overland Park and is playing a major role in the expansion of HWY 69 one of the majors economic  spines of the city.

‘Plans to stay involved’

A Johnson County native and graduate of SM South, Gerlach said after he leaves office he “plans to stay involved” in local affairs.

He remains on several local boards, including for AdventHealth Shawnee Mission and the Johnson County Community College Foundation.

“I feel I have continued the tradition that began before me and that I can say I added to the City of Overland Park,” Gerlach said.