It’s a wonderful time of year, when Olathe’s vibrant community spirit glows brighter than ever, and the miracle of Christmas fills our hearts and homes with joy.
It’s a special time of celebration and giving, when we pause to remember the very best gifts of all. In Christmas seasons past, I’ve asked you to join me in reflecting on the gifts most cherished — those that can’t be wrapped or placed under a tree.
Over the years, we’ve celebrated the treasured gifts of our time, gratitude, generosity, compassion, and joy. We’ve recognized the lasting gifts of service, hope, peace, encouragement, and community. Last Christmas, we gave thanks for the priceless gift of unity that bonds us together in a rich tapestry of diverse backgrounds and cultures.
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This year marked the city of Olathe’s 160th birthday, and we’ve come a long way since 1857. Throughout Olathe’s history, change and progress have been constant, driven by an unwavering commitment to our values and standards of excellence. They’ve been fueled by a spirit of optimism that’s allowed us to view challenges as opportunities and setbacks as lessons in fortitude and resilience.
That spirit of optimism is a very special gift, one that has sustained our community through its most difficult days. It brought great comfort this year following the tragic shooting at Austins Bar & Grill, a senseless, evil act that took the life of Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injured Alok Madasani and Ian Grillot. Our community will never forget them or others impacted by that horrible tragedy.
In the midst of our grief last February, we found optimism in the selfless and heroic actions of Grillot and in the bravery of our dedicated first responders. We found support in the outpouring of love and prayers in our community and around the world. We forged new bonds of friendship with our Indian American brothers and sisters, and together, we continue to heal and look to the future with hope and optimism in our hearts.
This year will be remembered for how Olatheans responded to so many needs with amazing compassion and generosity. We celebrated the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund exceeding $1 million raised for Olathe children since 2007. We were inspired by your kindness and the assistance you provided to hurricane and wildfire victims. We honored those of you who serve as volunteers, giving countless hours to make our community a better place.
It is a blessing to share the gift of optimism in a city consistently recognized as one of America’s safest and best. We never take for granted outstanding city employees, whose service and commitment ensure citizen satisfaction levels among the highest in the nation.
We are fortunate to have quality educators, excellent schools, and corporate partners who give back so generously. The strong and visionary leaders who serve on the Olathe City Council, Board of Education, and other city boards and committees give us assurance that our future is bright.
As always, the new year will bring more change and progress. In January, we’ll welcome Karin Brownlee to the Olathe City Council as a new At-Large City Councilmember, replacing Councilmember Ron Ryckman. We are deeply grateful for the years of service and leadership Councilmember Ryckman has given our city, and we wish him and his family all the best.
A new Olathe Strategic Plan is on the horizon for 2018, and we look forward to engaging residents, businesses, and other community stakeholders in our strategic-planning efforts.
We’re excited to see continued progress on several important projects, including the Indian Creek Library, Lake Olathe Park Master Plan, and new Johnson County Courthouse in downtown Olathe.
The update to the Envision Olathe Downtown Plan is nearing completion, following months of public input. We’re building on downtown’s many strengths, and the investments we’re making in the heart of our city demonstrate a solid commitment to our downtown core.
Our dynamic community continues to see more jobs and investment. We’re celebrating the exciting expansion of Garmin, the growth of Olathe Medical Center, and the opening of our fifth high school, Olathe West.
This year, we watched construction of Terracon’s new corporate headquarters, opening in Olathe in 2018. HiPower Systems announced a $42 million expansion in Olathe, including the acquisition of a 515,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at 167th and Lone Elm. Orizon Aerostructures also announced their planned relocation to Olathe, with a $23 million expansion and acquisition of a 205,000-square-foot facility at Old 56 Highway and Lone Elm.
The LANE4 Property Group continued their $15 million redevelopment of the Santa Fe Square Shopping Center, and a $25.8 million facelift was announced for the Olathe Station Shopping Center on South Strang Line Road.
In the days to come, your safety and high quality of life will remain our number one priority, and we’ll always seek ways to improve and serve you better. Olathe values innovation and collaboration, reflected in our participation in What Works Cities and other national initiatives that allow us to partner with global experts to share resources and best practices. We’ll remain data- and performance-driven, and as a Smart City, we’ll continue implementing new technology to enhance efficiency and connectivity.
We’ll greet the new year as we always have, with heartfelt gratitude and an optimistic spirit. I know that by working together, we’ll keep leading Olathe forward, drawing on a powerful history and looking ahead to a promising future.
Thank you for your support and for sharing the gift of optimism this holiday season. All of us on the Olathe City Council wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Michael Copeland is the longest-serving mayor in Olathe history. He was elected in April 2001 after eight years as a council member, including six as mayor pro tem.