Each year, I look forward to this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season. This is always a joyful time in Olathe, as we celebrate together and reflect upon the past year and the many blessings we enjoy. With grateful hearts, we remember and share the most special gifts of the Christmas season. They are the gifts of time, gratitude, generosity and compassion that touch hearts and transform lives. The gifts of joy, service, hope, peace and encouragement that help us build a rich and lasting legacy for tomorrow.
Among the gifts I’m most thankful for is the gift of community that strengthens and unites us as fellow citizens, family, co-workers and friends. It is Olathe’s incredible community spirit that has allowed us to accomplish so much, while never losing sight of what’s most important — giving back, serving others and taking care of our neighbors in need.
What a great privilege it is to live in Olathe — one of the safest cities in all of America. Our safe streets, neighborhoods and schools are the product of concerned and involved citizens who share the gift of community. Olathe’s outstanding public safety personnel have the strong support of residents and community partners who recognize the importance of working together to keep our city safe.
We have more than 70 active Neighborhood Watch groups working closely with our Police Department to help keep our neighborhoods safe and crime-free. Social media is also keeping us safer, with over 10,000 residents now using Nextdoor to communicate with neighbors and inform police of suspicious activity. We can alert you of public safety issues through tools like Nextdoor and the NotifyJoCo emergency notification system. Innovation and technology have certainly enhanced Olathe’s sense of community, connecting more and more residents to increase awareness, cooperation and police-community partnerships.
Our DirectionFinder citizen surveys continue to affirm our safe community, high quality of life and exceptional city staff. In fact, our citizen satisfaction levels exceed national and metro area averages in almost every major survey category. This year, Olathe’s approval rating for “overall quality of city services” was the highest in the nation — No. 1 out of more than 700 local governments all over the country! What’s more, Olathe’s satisfaction with value for tax dollars is 30 percent above the metropolitan and national averages.
Olathe is truly among the most vibrant cities in the nation, and our future is brighter than ever. Last year was a record year for economic development since the recession, and this year will be even better. National wholesaler S&S Activewear just announced it will locate its Midwest Distribution Center in the I-35 Logistics Park in south Olathe, creating 200 new jobs. This major development adds to the nearly $500 million in projects already on the list for 2015.
This year, we’ve watched some of the most exciting construction projects in our city’s history, including our magnificent new Embassy Suites Hotel and Olathe Conference Center; Olathe Medical Center’s largest-ever expansion, and our school district’s fifth high school — Olathe West, the future home of 2,000 Olathe students.
Our excellent, nationally recognized Olathe Public Schools remain a tremendous source of pride in our city. Last year, 71 percent of Olathe seniors took the ACT exam, scoring a composite 24, the highest in the school district’s history and well above state and national peers. SAT scores for 2015 graduates increased in all assessed areas and were also above state and national scores. Olathe is known as the “City of Champions” because of our remarkable student scholars and athletes. Olathe high school students have earned an amazing 24 state titles in various sports in the past five years alone!
Even more important is that our students share the precious gift of community, and their compassion and service to others exemplify the true spirit of our city. There’s no better example than the Olathe Public Schools annual “Pennies for Shoes” campaign, which benefits our Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund charities. Last year, our schools raised a record $22,000 for the fund, illustrating that even our youngest Olatheans know the joy of giving the gifts that matter most.
I am always humbled and amazed by how generously you give to the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund. Because of your big hearts and commitment to community, the fund is bringing more help and hope to Olathe children and families in need every year!
It’s a fact that your engagement and support are behind every success we celebrate, and we are very thankful. We will keep working to enhance our communication with you and offer ways for you to become involved and learn more about your city. It’s been so rewarding to see many of you participate in public meetings regarding our Public Art Master Plan and conceptual plans for Lake Olathe, Cedar Lake and the new Meadow Lane Trail. These are all major components of Olathe’s 10-year Strategic Parks & Recreation Master Plan, representing significant investments in our quality of life. We are eager to finalize plans and begin work on these projects in 2016.
The new year holds many great things in store, including the grand opening of our Embassy Suites Hotel and Olathe Conference Center, now just a few weeks away. These beautiful facilities will open new doors for Olathe, making us the destination of choice for all types of conventions and conferences.
As we look to the future, it’s great to know that we can count on your continued commitment and support. All of us on the Olathe City Council look forward to working with you to keep building a solid foundation for the health and growth of our city.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and another wonderful year of sharing the gift of community together!
Mayor Michael E. Copeland
City of Olathe