Northeast Joco

Former Prairie Village mayor looks to county duties

Kansas City Star

Last week, Ron Shaffer traded the mayor’s hat he has worn for 25 years for the title of Johnson County Commissioner.

More than 300 people attended a reception to honor the outgoing Prairie Village mayor for his quarter century of service. Shaffer started his new role as 1st District representative on the County Commission last week.

“He’s been phenomenal as mayor,” said longtime Mission City Council member Suzie Gibbs. “He will be awesome as county commissioner. I know he will do a great job taking care of northeast Johnson County.”

Former county commissioner Gary Anderson agreed. “Ron has the experience needed to learn quickly,” he said. “He will be able to deal with the many wants and needs of the county and set priorities.”

Shaffer, the newest member of the commission, was sworn in Jan. 12. He said he would use experience gained during his leadership of Prairie Village to tackle county issues, including the expansion of parks and libraries and the fate of the former King Louie facility in Overland Park.

“I have learned to listen to all sides of an issue before making a decision,” he said. “It’s something I also do in my position as an architect. I have to determine what’s appropriate for each circumstance.”

In his tenure as Prairie Village mayor, Shaffer oversaw creation of the city’s Village Vision Plan and a parks master plan. Community Improvement Districts were established at Corinth Square and the Village Shops. Environmental incentives included citywide recycling and no-smoking legislation.

Shaffer said he is proud of the city’s record of fiscal responsibility. Prairie Village has one of the lowest tax debt levels and tax rates of the first-class cities in Kansas. Shaffer hopes to continue his fiscal oversight at the county.

Going forward, Shaffer said he is excited about a $150,000 concept plan approved by the commission last week for the former King Louie bowling alley at 8788 Metcalf Ave.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the plan,” he said. “If it’s appropriate I would probably support it.”

The plan calls for converting the building into space for the Johnson County Museum, early voting and arts and theater programming from the county park and recreation district. It could be a $22.2 million project.

“It’s a great structure at a wonderful location,” Shaffer said. “As an architect I’m excited about the idea of renovating the building.”

Shaffer said reports are also due on expanding the county’s libraries and park systems. “Those two reports are expected this spring and summer,” he said. “I’m very excited to see what is recommended.”

Shaffer said a new agreement between the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and the Johnson County Transit System will shape county transportation. “Transportation is something that impacts residents of all ages, from the young to the senior citizens,” he said. “It’s a huge issue in the county.”

The commission approved a two-year agreement with the transportation authority in December to provide administrative and management services for The Jo transit service.

Looking back, former mayor Shaffer attended 677 city council meetings and 800 committee meetings. He was involved with the adoption of 623 ordinances, execution of 2,802 contracts and made 796 appointments and reappointments. “It’s been a wonderful experience, but I’m excited to move on,” he said.

Shaffer’s enthusiasm will make him a good addition to the commission, said former county commissioner Ed Peterson, whom Shaffer replaced on the commission. “His enthusiasm and optimism will be a breath of fresh air,” Peterson said. “He will be a great contribution to the board dynamics.”

County Commission Chairman Ed Eilert, a former Overland Park mayor, said Shaffer was a welcome addition.

“We worked together as mayors and I look forward to working with him on the commission,” Eilert said.