From promoting Overland Park’s growth to winning precedent-setting court cases, Marvin Rainey has helped shape Johnson County for more than 50 years.
Rainey, 81, will be honored for the role he has played in Johnson County at a Nov. 12 reception for his retirement as Shawnee city attorney.
Rainey’s legacy includes stints as Johnson County election commissioner, two terms as Overland Park mayor and most recently, Shawnee city attorney for 40 years.
Rainey’s calm demeanor and respect for Shawnee citizens has generated wide-ranging respect, even among critics of Shawnee government.
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Tony Lauer, a Shawnee resident and leading critic of Shawnee government, said Rainey “is extremely knowledgeable regarding municipal affairs.”
“I have learned a lot from him,” he said. “He is extremely intelligent and knows his stuff. He not only gives you the information you ask for, he provides additional information that you need to know.”
Described by his peers as a brilliant and an invaluable resource, Rainey began his public service in 1958 when he was appointed Johnson County election commissioner by Kansas Gov. George Docking.
Election commissioner was just the start for Rainey, who was elected mayor of Overland Park in 1963. He served two terms in office. Milestones during his tenure included the hiring of Don Pipes, the city’s first city manager, the construction of Metcalf South Shopping Center and numerous annexations to the city.
Rainey said he was privileged to lead Overland Park at a time of tremendous growth.
“Cities can’t control growth, they can only plan for it,” he said. “I tried to take a long-range view. Cities today have a major interest in economic development and you see many more items on local agendas related to that.”
In 1974, Rainey was unanimously appointed to serve as Shawnee city attorney. One of his first actions was drafting a resolution to change Shawnee’s form of government to a mayor/city manager/city council. Approved by voters in April 1974, it is the same form of government Shawnee has in place today.
He was the lead attorney in an early 1990s case involving the Fair Labor Standards Act and helped set precedent by drafting and defending a Shawnee ordinance banning pit bulls.
“Shawnee drafted the first breed-specific dog regulation to be upheld by the courts,” he said. “Overland Park adopted a similar regulation and ours became a model for other cities.”
Rainey served under five Shawnee mayors and four city managers, including the former city manager Gary Montague.
“He is a wonderful, wonderful person,” said Montague, who worked with Rainey from 1978 to 2005. “We could always rely on Marvin for sound advice. He was a tremendous resource for me and city staff.”
Shawnee’s current city manager, Carol Gonzales, also praised Rainey. “He has one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever encountered,” Gonzales said. “He is very respectful of democracy and has always believed that citizens have the right to express their views. He is also a very humble man.”
Rainey’s knowledge of municipal law garnered him recognition from the International Municipal Lawyers Association, which in November 2012 presented Rainey with the Joseph I. Mulligan, Jr. Distinguished Public Service Award honoring a government attorney for significant and surpassing achievements in the field of local government law. Rainey was recognized for shaping Kansas municipal law through his roles in court cases involving eminent domain, land uses and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. He also received an award from the League of Kansas Municipalities.
Gonzales said Rainey and Rainey, PA, the firm that has served as Shawnee’s legal counsel for 40 years, will continue in that role. Marvin operates the firm with his son, Ellis.
“Marvin is retiring as city attorney but will still continue to be involved as ‘city attorney emeritus,’ using his vast knowledge of the community and municipal law to provide support to Ellis and other city staff when needed,” Gonzales said.
Rainey said, “I’m looking forward to continuing my involvement with the city. I like to look ahead and consider what issues will be important 10 to 20 years from now.”
4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at Shawnee Town Hall museum, 11600 Johnson Drive