Hooked On Politics 1

Local Mayors Took Different Paths to Arrive at the Same Destination

Each night, approximately 35,000 people in the Northland go to bed with one thing in common. They all live in communities governed by mayors that are women.

Mayors Nan Johnston, Jean Moore, and Kathy Rose of Parkville, Gladstone, and Riverside, MO, respectively, serve as leaders of their cities. Though they each traveled different paths to arrive at this same destination, ultimately, they are more alike than different.

Jean Moore comes from a family with a long history of participation in government and politics.

“My father was the 5th generation of serving as County Judge (County Commissioner) in my home county. From the time I was a little girl, I remember campaigning with my dad. So, it wasn’t totally untoward that I would be drawn to political/government involvement.

While studying political science at the University of Missouri-Columbia, I had the opportunity to be a part of the first legislative internship class at Mizzou that paired political science students with legislators in the Missouri General Assembly. I was fortunate enough to have a front-row seat to the legislature, and the passage of important legislation still in effect today (i.e., the Missouri Sunshine Law).

With opportunities to work on the campaign of US Congressman Jerry Litton, who was running for US Senate, and spending five years in the Kansas City district office of US Senator Tom Eagleton before taking a leave to help direct his successful re-election bid, I was ‘hooked’ on politics!” says Moore

After nearly a decade of public service, Moore took a break and joined a small market research consulting firm here in Kansas City.

“In 1992, the founder decided to leave the company, so I hung up my shingle and took over the project management for the clients we had been serving. I’ve been in the market research consulting business on my own for the past 25 years.”

A little over a decade later, Moore was approached by a current city councilman in Gladstone to participate in a grassroots citizens-based planning effort to establish a long-range strategic plan for the city. Intrigued by the possibilities, she ended up co-chairing that effort, called Gladstone on the Move, which resulted in the construction of the Gladstone Community Center and Natatorium, and became the first step in the efforts to create a downtown for the City of Gladstone. Moore co-chaired the city’s successful efforts in 2008 to become an All-America City, as well as the City’s winning 2010 Public Safety Sales Tax campaign.

“With the untimely death of a sitting Councilman in 2011, I was appointed to fill his term on the Council and began my public service as a Council member,” explains Moore. “I have run unopposed for two, three-year terms, and served two terms as Mayor, in 2013 and 2016.”

Moore’s term as Mayor ended in April.

Kathy Rose shares a family history of involvement in politics similar to Moore’s. Her mother, Betty Burch, served as Mayor of Riverside from 1988 until 2006 when she suffered an illness that prohibited her from continuing to hold an elected office.

“I was well aware of the accomplishments that had been made during my mother’s tenure and had actually worked behind the scenes on several things that she led the city through during her years of service. When she could no longer serve, I made a decision to leave my career of 25 years as a court administrator and run for elected office. I wanted to continue the great things she had achieved. Prior to this happening with my mother, I had never aspired to run for elected office and certainly never took the position thinking it would be a career.”

Now in her twelfth year as the Mayor of Riverside, Rose continues to add to her accomplishments. Since taking office, she has guided the evolution of her community’s small city focus to a larger, regional focus. Rose was President of the Mayor’s Metropolitan Caucus in 2009. The Caucus is a group of mayors from four counties: Cass, Clay, Platte, and Jackson. In 2010, she was selected to serve on the Missouri Municipal League Board of Directors, and was elected president of the group last September.

Nan Johnston, Mayor of Parkville, recalls her journey to city leadership as unintentional. Through her volunteerism and participation in local campaigns, Johnston established herself as a leader in the community.

“It never occurred to me to make politics a career, but when the opportunity arose, I took advantage of it. Nine years ago, the mayor (Gerry Richardson) was elected from my ward. He had one year left in his term on the Board of Aldermen. The city needed someone to fill the remainder of that term. One day, out of the blue, I received a call from the mayor. Apparently, my name had been submitted as a possible candidate.

I did not have any political experience but had volunteered extensively in the community. I had worked on bond campaigns for a school district, organized neighborhood groups, worked with Scouts, was active at my daughter’s school, and contributed many hours to a spay and neuter clinic, as well as a cancer foundation.

I was known to be an individual who enjoyed working throughout the community simply because I received great satisfaction from making a difference. Too, I was recognized as an individual who could work with others and get things done.

When I first began on the board of aldermen, my daughter was in middle school,” recalls Johnston. “She was very interested in politics and attended many of the meetings. The schedule demands of an alderman weren’t as heavy as they are now that I’m mayor. The timing was perfect; I became mayor when she was a freshman in college.

I am still a small business owner, which works well with mayoral duties. Since I am my own boss, it is easy to schedule around meetings and city-related events. At times, I work late hours, but it doesn’t feel like work because I’m engaged in two careers I enjoy immensely.”

The intuition of the individual(s) that submitted Johnston’s name for the leadership role for her Ward on the Board of Aldermen was well rewarded. Johnston found she very much enjoyed the challenge of politics, economic development, and working with the community. She also found out she was good at it. Her efforts resulted in her election as Mayor in April 2014 to a two-year term and re-elected in 2016 to a three-year term.

Johnston, Moore, and Rose all agree serving their communities is a privilege.

“I consider serving on the Gladstone Council as ‘public service’, not politics,” Moore confirms.

“As Mayor, I believe there is nothing more rewarding than providing a resource for someone in need, developing partnerships, creating social spaces and environments, implementing recreational and healthy programs, establishing relationships, and delivering the highest quality of service to increase someone’s quality of life,” adds Rose.

“This is what being a mayor is all about,” smiles Johnston, “improving the quality of life in our community through leadership and partnerships.”