It was a year unlike any other in Johnson County. National stories dominated our collective attention and rightfully so: a global pandemic, an economic recession, a presidential campaign, political demonstrations.
National stories dominated our collective attention and rightfully so: a global pandemic, an economic recession, a presidential campaign, political demonstrations.
All these stories touched Johnson County, deeply affecting our lives and communities.
But stories with more local importance and impact — the kind the Post has long prided itself on covering — also resonated with readers: myriad challenges in the Shawnee Mission School District, high profile development projects, the death in the line of duty of Overland Park Police Officer Mike Mosher.
(In addition, despite the economic troubles caused by COVID-19, it was an active year for new restaurant openings in Johnson County. We’ll have a separate story on those later on Thursday, so look out for that.)
But now, here is our look back at an unprecedented news year in Johnson County, with some of the Post’s most read stories of 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic
The story that will define not only this year but will likely continue to impact our lives in Johnson County for years to come.
The pandemic arrived in the Kansas City region in mid-March, upending life as we knew it. As of this week, Johnson County health officials have recorded 435 deaths from the disease and more than 33,000 infections.
Some of the Post’s most-read stories on COVID-19 this year:
The Nov. 3 general election in Johnson County saw near-record turnout of 77%, with more than 350,000 ballots cast overall. Most voters cast early ballots amid anxiety and uncertainty about going to the polls in person during the pandemic.
Deep partisan divisions seen at the national level were reflected in politics and campaigning in Johnson County. In the end, both major parties were able to claim a measure of victory in local elections.
Some of the Post’s most-read stories about politics and the election this year:
Many Johnson Countians this year grappled with their community’s history of discrimination and exclusion, embodied in the racist deed restrictions and housing covenants that helped the Kansas City suburbs blossom more than a century ago.
Sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Johnson Countians marched and demonstrated in several cities this summer, demanding a broader reckoning with racism and more accountability and transparency for law enforcement.
Some of the Post’s most-read stories about race this year:
The year in Shawnee Mission Schools began with drawn-out negotiations over a new teacher contract. Then, this spring, schools were forced to go virtual because of the pandemic.
Over the summer and into the fall, district leaders, teachers and families debated (sometimes vehemently) over how fully schools should reopen, ultimately deciding on a more conservative approach than other Johnson County districts.
Then, after all that, Superintendent Mike Fulton announced his retirement, effective next summer.
Some of the Post’s most read stories about SMSD this year:
In early May, Overland Park Police Officer Mike Mosher was shot and killed during a confrontation with a hit-and-run suspect. Both Mosher and the suspect were killed when they exchanged gunfire with each other.
Mosher had not been on duty at the time but had been on his way into work when he heard the dispatch call and pursued the suspect’s vehicle.
“Mike was a hero and he died doing what he loved. He died defending his community,” Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez said later.
In October, Overland Park renamed a stretch of 123rd Street between Metcalf Avenue and Blue Valley Parkway — near where the incident occurred — after Mosher.
In December, Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler was arrested on one count of felony perjury. It later emerged she was alleged to have filed a Kansas open meetings complaint under someone else’s name. She faces a January court date.
Here are some other local headlines that caught readers’ attention this year: