Jenny Doty, Recreation Supervisor

Jenny Doty, Recreation Supervisor
Posted on 08/09/2023

Vegetable gardening has always been a passion for Jenny Doty, Recreation Supervisor and Farmers Market Manager for Lenexa Parks & Recreation. She didn’t know it would turn into a 15+ year career working in local government.

“When you stay in one place long enough, you get to see a community’s vision become reality,” she said. “I came several years after Vision 2020 was completed. Lenexans dreamed big and I am grateful to have been a part of a team to make these dreams come true.”

Jenny grew up in Haysville, Kansas — a small town community where everybody kind of knows each other.

“As a kid, my brother and I rode our bikes around town especially to the swimming pool,” she said. “We were there so much that the lifeguards had nicknames for us.”

She's not the only one from Haysville working for the City of Lenexa. Longtime friend, and former t-ball teammate, Danny Chavez serves as a master police officer (and primary public information officer) for the Lenexa Police Department.

“We have probably two of the most public-facing jobs in the City,” she said. “We grew up as friends and graduated from the same high school. He came to the City before me so it was great to hear what a special community Lenexa was from him. I even put him down as referring me when my job opened.”

Jenny originally wanted to be an architect but decided sitting behind a desk was not for her.

“I wanted to be out visiting with people and doing things — really trying to a make a difference,” she said.

Connecting people to plants became her career focus.

“I got a degree in horticultural therapy from Kansas State University,” Jenny said.

Her love for people and her passion for horticulture came together in 2001 when she started work as a horticultural therapist and assistant recreation director at a local nursing home in Kansas City.  

"I received a grant to build a greenhouse for patients so we would have horticultural therapy sessions in there," Jenny said.

From growing and maintaining plants to working in the greenhouse, the therapy sessions were a way for Jenny to facilitate interactions with the healing elements of nature for the patients.

"When I worked directly as a horticultural therapist, I would have dementia patients that would only speak in the garden," she said. "I experienced the calming effect connecting patients with plants — there are many studies proving that being around plants has many health benefits.”

But working in a long-term care facility became challenging after many years. 

"You help patients to have the best of their last years but it also takes a toll on a caregiver as you see and experience so much loss," Jenny said. "In order to care for myself better I knew I needed to find a different role in our community. There are lots of times I think back about my patients and sometimes I am lucky to get to run into one of their family members at an event I am working for with the City.”

Jenny Doty as a Park NaturalistJenny started working for the City of Lenexa in 2007 as a Park Naturalist. This meant new opportunities for nature education.

Every program she currently does in her role is something she has expanded or created since she’s been here. 

The first community garden in Lenexa started in 1997 at Sar-Ko-Par Trails with around 12 gardeners. Today, Jenny grew the program nearly six times the size with 72 gardeners and two additional gardens at Electric Park and Scouting Park. The Adopt-A-Spot cleanup and beautification program in Lenexa, which currently has 18 participating families, businesses, and organizations, was spearheaded by Jenny in 2010. She established many nature and art educational programs including Playground Passport, Rain Barrel classes, Bluebird Trails, Coffee, Walk and Talk and many others. All of the while still having a presence at major festivals and events in Lenexa, alongside the Parks and Recreation team.

Jenny Doty on playground slide in Lenexa“One of my proudest moments has been that my hometown reached out to me to learn about our Playground Passport program," she said. "They wanted to create something similar back in Haysville. At first, I thought someone was prank calling me. I was honored that they wanted to know more and was excited to help them. Once it was established, I visited my childhood park and it was so awesome to see my work in Lenexa could still impact my friends and family in Haysville.”

In her position as park naturalist, Jenny was encouraged to revamp and bring back a farmers market to Lenexa. 

“When we had our 2012 Parks Master Plan, our residents made us very aware of how important it was to them to have a farmers market," she said. "During the design, it was great to be included to help determine how a weekly market could function to be a comfortable space for residents along with all the other campus activities still happening.”

The same year the parks master plan was established, Jenny was promoted to recreation supervisor. Since 2007, Jenny has been nominated by co-workers and received three employee value awards for rising star, team player and vision.

“In my work, I have been given a lot of autonomy to do what is right and it is important to take care of our residents," Jenny said. "I believe that our last City value “We Care” is one that all of us take seriously and I am grateful that I work with a team, administration and council that does the same. I believe the way that all of my co-workers embody our values makes it a joy to come to work each day. The people I work with and get to serve are why I have stayed in Lenexa so long.”

One of her favorite classes at K-State was vegetable crop management.

“Working with the farmers, I feel like those are my people,” Jenny said. “Providing access to food and locally grown food. Specialty crops, which is all the fruits and vegetables we see, those farmers don’t get as much support in agriculture as their crops are not subsidized like wheat or soybeans. It’s really great to have a space where the farmers are able to succeed by growing their own produce and selling it.”

After a lot of researching, consulting and working with possible market vendors, the Lenexa Farmers Market opened on April 21, 2018 — almost a year after the Lenexa civic campus opened.

Jenny Doty at opening day of the Lenexa Farmers Market in 2018When asked about her biggest fear in her role, Jenny easily said, “The fear that people won’t show up to the farmers market". "I have learned that it doesn’t ever go away because I worry about it every season,” she said. “Do they remember we have a market today? I want people to show up to enjoy the wonderful products that our vendors make and bring.”

Each week, Jenny gets to see the connection people have with each other at the farmers market and it is one of the things that makes her most proud.

“It’s a place that makes the community better,” Jenny said. “We have residents who run into old friends at the market —maybe someone that they haven’t seen in five years, someone they went to high school with or an old neighbor — those relationships are so important for a healthy community. So, beyond the food and the finances for our vendors, the farmers market builds connections to make the community stronger.”

When people visit the Lenexa Farmers Market, Jenny wants customers to have the opportunity to talk to a maker, to learn where the food came from or how something was made.

“To ask a farmer why we’re waiting for watermelons right now,” she said. “Well because they’re not quite ripe in Kansas and Missouri. Having those relationships for people to know where their food comes from and the seasonality for the best tasting produce.”

While the farmers market ends at noon on Saturdays, work continues for Jenny and her team.

“At the end of a market, we take all those tokens from our vendors, write them invoices and then we make sure all of those balances,” she said. “There’s actually a lot of accounting involved making sure all the double up food bucks and snap stuff balances. Since it’s a federal program, it’s really important to have those number correct.”  

Jenny works alongside 71 other full-time staff members in Lenexa Parks & Recreation. In the recreation division, she works closely with five recreation supervisors who plan the City’s major festivals and events, as well as youth, young adult, and senior programming.

“I didn’t know my position existed when I was in college,” she said. “We all joke about how most of us didn’t go to college to get a parks and recreation degree but that allows our team to have different skills to share. It’s a position that has a wide variety of opportunities to work with the community and build programs that the public wants.”

Jenny lives in Overland Park, Kansas, with her husband, Craig, and daughters, Allie and Vada. During her free time, she enjoys cooking with her husband, gardening, quilting and spending time with her sweet miniature schnauzer, Lucky.

Meet more of our team City of Lenexa jobs
Published Aug. 9, 2023