Lee's Summit Journal

For LS Employee of the Year, the secret is making people ‘feel like they belong’

In his role as neighborhood services officer for the City of Lee’s Summit, Dylan Eppert evaluates the city’s residential and commercial properties for code and ordinance violations. Eppert was named Lee’s Summit’s 2018 Employee of the Year.
In his role as neighborhood services officer for the City of Lee’s Summit, Dylan Eppert evaluates the city’s residential and commercial properties for code and ordinance violations. Eppert was named Lee’s Summit’s 2018 Employee of the Year. Courtesy photo

In his role as a neighborhood services officer, Dylan Eppert ensures Lee’s Summit property owners comply with city ordinances.

Which might make him sound like a “bad guy,” but the fact that he was named Lee’s Summit’s 2018 Employee of the Year in December tells a different story.

He’s been employed in Lee’s Summit since 2003 and is a cheerleader for the city.

“We try to do what’s best for the overall community and also build a sense of community, so people feel like they belong.”

Eppert, who holds a degree in criminal justice, worked in the city’s correctional department before taking on his current job.

For Eppert, who lives in Garden City, communication is a priority when working with property owners to achieve ordinance compliance.

“The work has its challenges because owners are not always happy with me,” Eppert said. “I ask myself what types of education and information I need to provide, so that what I’m asking them to do will seem more reasonable. I work closely with people to help, and give them ideas for solutions.

“Having been on the law enforcement side, I’ve seen what could have been a very bad situation turned around. As a neighborhood services officer, I navigate everything possible, so everyone goes away happy. The goal is not to take a person to court, it’s simply to gain compliance.”

Eppert works with property owners ranging from those who have extensive resources and knowledge of city ordinances, to those who have neither. Some owners may also be facing health- or age-related issues.

According to Tracy Deister, Lee’s Summit Codes administration manager and Eppert’s supervisor, enforcing city codes and ordinances requires considerable collaboration between this diverse group of property owners and numerous city departments.

Code and ordinance issues can bring their fair share of challenges and Eppert is frequently on the frontline of efforts to find solutions. Achieving the best possible outcomes requires a unique set of skills and attributes.

Perhaps he’s most recognized by supervisors, peers and the city’s residents for his ability to find common ground.

“Dylan not only presents himself in a respectful manner, but as someone who is considerate of the others’ needs and desires,” Deister said. “Ethics and honesty are the foundation for any city employee and these are the essence of who Dylan is. Residents may not always like his information or stance, but they know that they can trust him.

“Offering compassion, responsiveness and fairness, while functioning within legal rules and regulations, is a complex task and Dylan achieves this.”

Other challenges of Eppert’s code enforcement work include meeting the demands that accompany Lee’s Summit’s accelerating commercial and residential growth, while addressing areas where property is aging. There can be instances in which owners live out of the country and do not respond to the city for months regarding an unsafe code violation on their property.

Sometimes, Eppert takes a hands-on approach to resolving an issue.

“Last year, we had a complaint of a couch by a dumpster and it turned out the owner of the couch was pregnant and couldn’t move it anymore,” he said. “I called a family member and we moved it for her and abated the violation.”

Eppert is married and the father of three children. He and his wife raise cattle on their farm in Garden City, a distance away in Cass County. Though life is full, Eppert has his eyes on a second career and is studying urban planning, with plans to become a city planner.

“I drive 50 minutes every day to Lee’s Summit because I love Lee’s Summit. There’s an atmosphere here that’s almost contagious.

“My job is more than just a day-to-day job. I do everything in my job description, but I go beyond that, and do everything in my power to help.”

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