For the past 25 years, Mark Randall has done something unusual for someone in his field.
He’s gotten up every morning and driven to the same building, sat in the same office, working at the same job as the city administrator of Pleasant Hill.
“It’s kind of unusual to be at a place for 25 years,” Randall said. “I’ve just been very fortunate to work with some very good mayors and councils. They’ve at least liked what I’ve done so far, so I’ve been able to stay on.”
In two and a half decades, Randall has left his mark on the Cass County community and beyond.
In part because of his efforts, a recreational trail now runs through Pleasant Hill, the city’s downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places, and Cass County has a 911 call center.
Randall said he feels fortunate to have been involved in many interesting projects over the years, including working to help restore a marquee on Pleasant Hill’s downtown theater.
“I should confess, I didn’t ‘reopen’ the theater,” Randall said. “Our challenge was to find a way to bring the lights back to our downtown.”
Another project has been to attain recognition for black 1890s champion trapshooter Tobe Cohron, who was from Pleasant Hill.
Twice, Cohron tried to enter the Grand American Handicap, the national trapshooting championship, but was turned away because of his color. In 1899, he was allowed to participate in the preliminaries, but Southern white shooters then offered him $500 to withdraw.
Randall has worked for the past few years to get Cohron inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and to erect a monument honoring the trapshooter in downtown Pleasant Hill. Cohron’s grave was marked in 2009.
But it’s the more mundane things affecting Pleasant Hill that Randall likes to focus on.
“I’d like to think the parks are better, the infrastructure is better. ... I feel like we’ve moved forward on all fronts really, and it’s been exciting,” Randall said.
“That’s the great thing about this line of work. You get to work on something different every day and it’s pretty exciting to have been a part of some of those changes.”
And for 32 years, Randall has been involved with the Mid-America Regional Council, which promotes regional cooperation in the Kansas City area.
“I’ve appreciated being a part of the MARC process through the years,” Randall said. “It’s a place of optimism and idealism, but it’s also where those things intersect with real accomplishment.”
Through MARC, he’s worked on committees to create sustainable places across the region, helped improve solid-waste management in the area and pushed for a Katy Trail connection through Kansas City. The Pleasant Hill trail was envisioned as part of that future connection.
For those reasons, along with his work in Pleasant Hill, the regional council recently honored him with its 2014 Regional Leadership Award.
MARC Executive Director David Warm said it was an easy decision for the agency to make.
“He is recognized for his engagement and leadership in a number of projects over a long period of time, and in part for how he approaches regional involvement,” Warm said. “It was an easy story to tell because he is so effective and active in his role.”
MARC also awarded regional leadership honors to former Independence Mayor Don Reimal, the Shepherd’s Center and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and REACH Healthcare Foundation.
The youngest of six children, Randall grew up on a farm in the Monett, Mo., area. The family talked about current events at dinner. Those conversations, along with a Jesuit education at Rockhurst University, made him want to try to make the world a little bit better.
Running for office never enticed him, but serving as one of the gears to help government run was something that Randall wanted intensely.
“What really drew me to city management is this is the level of government that is closest to the public and most immediate on getting things done,” he said.
“You can see something turn from idea to reality pretty quick and you can feel like you’re really making a difference … like now that that pool’s open, you can see all the kids really enjoying it. Or the trail.”
He saw Pleasant Hill as a city with a lot of potential, and one that could use his help. He planned to stay about five years, but never grew tired of the work or of Pleasant Hill, which today has more than 8,000 people.
“It’s a wonderful little town once you get to know it,” he said.
A 32-year career in city management has given Randall many connections, some of which have turned into friendships. Lee’s Summit City Manager Steven Arbo is one of those friends.
In a video created by MARC to recognize Randall and his accomplishments, Arbo said Randall portrays the values and ethics they want to see in the city management profession.
“Mark and I met nearly 28 years ago, both as young people excited about the city management profession,” Arbo said.
“Mark is one of those people who wouldn’t be satisfied with just getting the day-to-day work done. He knows there’s a bigger purpose for him and for his city, and he’s fulfilled that purpose.”
John VanGorkom is Pleasant Hill’s mayor of two years now. The two men met many years ago when Randall worked for the city of Lee’s Summit and VanGorkom was deputy fire chief there.
“He’s a great city manager,” VanGorkom said. “He seems to have the respect of the community and the government, which is oftentimes hard to do.”
VanGorkom credits Randall and the relationships he’s been able to cultivate with other agencies as the reason for a number of grants Pleasant Hill has procured and projects the city has completed.
It is that knowledge and recognition of his role in the region that made MARC’s decision so easy.
“I hadn’t really thought about it, but the number of projects, all those things through the years, I guess this is sort of recognition for all those things,” Randall said of the MARC recognition. “I certainly didn’t do it for that award, but it really was great to have them honor me.”
As Randall looks to the future, he's not planning on going anywhere.
“That’s what is exciting, I think there are still a lot of regional problems that we can be involved with,” Randall said.
“Pleasant Hill’s got things that we would like to see done, like getting the Katy Trail into KC. … It’d be nice to continue to be a part of planning some of those responses to those problems for the whole region.”
The Star’s Elaine Adams contributed to this report.
The Mark Randall file
From Monett, Mo., the youngest of six children.
Graduated from Rockhurst University and then earned a masters in public administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Began his career as assistant to the Clay County administrator and also worked as administrative analyst for Lee’s Summit.