Mayor Sayers gives first State of the City address

Mayor Sayers gives first State of the City address
Posted on 02/21/2024
Mayor Julie Sayers speaking at microphone

Below is the text of Mayor Julie Sayers’ prepared remarks for the State of the City address on Feb. 21, 2024.

Good afternoon residents, business owners, chamber members, staff and guests. I’d like to begin my remarks today just as you might imagine a woman would: by talking about shoes. 

Shoes are the elephant in this room, and the subject of the first transition in leadership in Lenexa in 20 years. Allow me to offer this image of two pair. 

The shoes on the left are those of a farm kid who has known this community inside and out for 60 years. He is a tireless public servant, who devoted half of his life to this community and countless other boards and committees over the years.

The ones on the right are the daughter of a dentist, who, as a little girl, visited her grandparents’ business in Lenexa. She ended up settling here in 2014 after a journey around the world designing facilities for the NBA, NFL and FIFA. Her interest in public service began after her role volunteering in the public education campaign to advocate for the new single terminal airport. 

Both are Jayhawks, but the shoes on the left belong to a diehard fan of the basketball team, while the ones on the right spent her time on Mount Oread furthering her love of art, design and music. 
The shoes on the left could always be found at the corner of 87th and Monrovia. They belong to a leader of one of the most successful financial institutions in the Kansas City metro, who can recite the current interest rate off the top of his head. 

The ones on the right recently assumed ownership of a small woman-owned commercial furniture dealership in the Crossroads. She has expertise in construction, workplace culture and ergonomics, and is still rising within the design and commercial real estate industry. 

By almost every measure, the two pairs of shoes are different. It would be futile to imagine me filling the shoes of Mayor Mike Boehm. But what I can confidently assure you of is that we are walking two parts of the same path. 

I have spent the past four years watching him and learning from him, and I have every intention of continuing the same economic development strategy, guiding principles, traditions and values-based delivery of exceptional public service that make Lenexa the premier city that it is today. 

And, with that, let’s turn the page and spend the rest of today’s presentation celebrating our success and looking forward to our shared bright future.

I am fortunate to serve alongside eight City Council members whose commitment to Lenexa is truly profound.

Some have served for decades, others only a few months, but each is committed to making Lenexa an extraordinary place. As I introduce City Council members, I ask each of them to stand. Please hold your applause until the end.

Joe Karlin, Bill Nicks, Courtney Eiterich, Melanie Arroyo, Craig Denny – and our three newest Council members, Mark Charlton, Chelsea Williamson and Chris Herron.

Thank you all for your service, dedication and friendship. The professional decorum and respectful relationships we enjoy among our governing body are paramount to our success, and I appreciate each of your commitment to maintaining the culture that we enjoy. 

One important way we measure success is through a citizen satisfaction survey administered every other year by ETC Institute. This statistically validated survey allows us to compare our performance to other governments and to our own results from previous years.

We conducted the survey in 2023 and, once again, our results were outstanding. Lenexa scored significantly above the national and regional averages in all 43 areas assessed in the survey.

To help you see how impressive our results were, I’d like to share a few highlights on how we compare to other communities who administer the same survey.

When asked to rate the overall quality of life in Lenexa, 96% of respondents said they were very satisfied or satisfied. The average for other cities in Kansas and Missouri is 78%.
When asked to rate Lenexa as a place to live, 98% of our residents said either excellent or good. The regional average is 87%. Nationally, this average is 49%.

Ninety-seven percent of our respondents gave us excellent or good marks when asked to rate Lenexa as a place to raise children. This is 20 points higher than the region and 36 points higher than the national average.

The survey also gives us insight into which services are high priorities for our residents. Three of the top priorities that emerged are public safety, streets and infrastructure, and quality parks.
As these priorities align with our Vision 2040 plan, let’s examine them a little further. For these ratings, I’ll show the percentage of people who rated very satisfied or satisfied for each question compared to other cities.

For the overall quality of fire and EMS services, Lenexa received 97% compared to 88% in our region and 76% nationally.

The overall quality of police services was equally notable — Lenexa scored 94% compared to 78% regionally and 53% across the nation.

We invest heavily in our infrastructure, which is reflected in the survey results. When rating the overall maintenance of city streets, our score was 84% — a whopping 34 percentage points higher than the regional average and 43 points higher than the national average.

Last year we resurfaced 53 lane miles of roadway through our Pavement Management Program, and we intend to invest $37 million in this important work over the next five years. This ongoing program is partially funded with our 3/8-cent sales tax, which is a great strategy for enlisting nonresident assistance with maintaining the network that both residents and visitors use every day. 

Our final comparison looks at maintenance of city parks. Lenexa received a 96% rating compared to 80% across the region. When you visit our beautiful parks, it’s clear they’re cherished by our community.

ETC Institute recognizes organizations with the best results from across the country with the “Leading the Way” award. I am proud to share that, once again, we were among the elite cities to earn this honor. This class of recipients was selected from nearly 200 communities that participated in the survey from winter 2023, and also include several of our peers and utilities in the Kansas City metro. 

I share these survey results because they are objective proof of what I think we all feel in our hearts: Lenexa is a special place. Consistently achieving remarkable scores deserves recognition. These ratings don’t just happen — they are a direct reflection of our professional staff and their phenomenal efforts to serve our community. 

More than 800 people work for the City of Lenexa. From entry-level lifeguards to those who have served for more than 35 years, Lenexa’s employees are among the best public servants in the country. They do the right thing for the right reasons and sincerely care about the community they serve. 

Now let’s take a minute and look back at some accomplishments and milestones from the past year. 

The City’s financial outlook remains strong, and we were delighted to receive AAA credit ratings again from both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s.

The 2024 budget included the City’s sixth consecutive decrease in the property tax rate. We remain dedicated to responsibly using the funds entrusted to us to deliver outstanding services.

For the first time in our history, the value of total construction permitted in Lenexa was more than a half a billion dollars in 2023. We exceeded our previous record from 2018 by almost $200 million and ended the year with more than $660 million of investment in our community. 

This figure includes both new investment — like the AdventHealth project at City Center and the Vantage Point Apartments at 93rd and Renner — as well as reinvestment by many existing companies, including Kiewit, Light Edge Cavern Technology Suites, Quest Clinical and ThemoFisher Scientific. 

The City also continues to encourage reinvestment in existing homes, especially in long-established neighborhoods. Funding for our Exterior Grant Program doubled in 2023 and we awarded more than $85,000 in grants to residents who live in aging homes. The 22 households that used these matching funds to make improvements to their homes invested more than $265,000 in our community. Care and upkeep of these older homes is crucially important to ensuring that the older parts of our community remain vibrant and desirable. 

I encourage homeowners to look into both this program and the Rain to Recreation Cost Share Program, which reimburses expenses associated with the installation of rain gardens, native plants and trees and other structures that help reduce stormwater runoff and promote biodiversity. 

As you might remember, two severe storms swept through Lenexa last July causing a historic amount of damage. While the City does not pick up debris after every storm, there was no doubt in our mind that it was the right thing to do after the scale of these storms. Crews immediately cleared the roads and then dedicated the following month to picking up debris for residents. Here’s a short video we released after the cleanup.

Our sincere appreciation goes to our Municipal Services and Parks & Recreation departments, who worked through the sweltering heat of July and August to make this cleanup possible.

We continue to make progress on our Complete Streets Plan which helps create comfortable, safe and efficient connections for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. 

We accomplished a key recommendation from that plan when we installed a segment of trail that completed our new bicycle boulevard. Crafted in collaboration with the community, the bicycle boulevard designates a safe route for cyclists to follow through the city — connecting Old Town to central Lenexa and other key destinations.

We worked toward another Complete Streets goal by installing bus pads along a new route — the 487 — that connects the 87th Street corridor to other popular locations and commuter routes in Johnson County.

Lenexa’s exceptional quality of life is enhanced by festivals, programs and events offered throughout the community. As always, Old Town was the site of many of our signature events, including the Freedom Run, Community Days Parade, Food Truck Frenzy, Moonlight Bike Ride and, of course, the Lenexa Chili Challenge. 

Our parks are filled throughout the year with people enjoying green space and the many activities offered in them. From outdoor concerts and a triathlon for kids to popular festivals like the Great Lenexa Barbeque Battle and Sar-Ko Aglow, our events brought thousands of residents and visitors alike to Lenexa’s parks last year.

In partnership with Lenexa firm Henderson Engineers, we opened two new disc golf courses at Black Hoof Park last spring. Enthusiasts embraced the 18-hole, championship-level course while beginners and families enjoy the nine-hole course. These courses earned an Editor’s Choice pick in Kansas City Magazine’s Best of KC 2023.

Two years ago, we asked the community what they wanted to see in a new skate park and their engagement in the process was amazing. Hundreds joined as we cut the ribbon on the new Rolling Magic Skate Park in Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park in September. It was incredibly special to watch those who had shared feedback enjoy features they requested at the new skate park. Here is a quick video that shows the excitement from opening day.

Each time I drive by the skate park, I see people of all ages enjoying this new attraction.

The civic campus at Lenexa City Center has also been buzzing with activity. Last year the Lenexa Farmers Market welcomed more than 39,000 people, a 52% increase from the previous year.

Johnson County Post readers honored us by naming the Lenexa Rec Center the Best Community Center in their Best of 2023 Awards. It is easy to understand why. With cutting-edge fitness equipment and staff committed to helping people on their journey to improved health, the Rec Center is an exceptional community asset.

The Lenexa Public Market is an exciting destination that has something for everyone, with its focus on celebrating global cultures and cuisines. 

We welcomed Kimchi and Bap and their delicious Korean dishes to the Market last August. 

Cardboard Corner Cafe opened in the Market last week and brings a new way for residents to enjoy the space with their concept of food and board games.

Last year, the Public Market forged a partnership with the Ethnic Enrichment Commission of Kansas City. Through this collaboration, new events were introduced, as well as pop-up restaurants showcasing an expanded array of cuisines from around the world.

And while enjoying all the civic campus has to offer, visitors with an electric vehicle can make use of our new EV charging stations which were installed in the garage last year. You will also find a new charging station in Old Town, most poetically located just in front of the historic site of Lenexa’s first gas station. 

2023 was a busy and rewarding year and there are more great things on the horizon. Please allow some of our staff and Councilmembers to share a preview of what’s to come.

As you can see, 2024 promises to be another exciting year. Please stay informed about what is taking place by reading TownTalk, subscribing to our newsletters and following us on social media. Also look for redesigned City and Public Market websites coming soon and share feedback on how these important tools can serve you better. 

As we build toward the future, I encourage you to engage with us. Please share your ideas and opinions with elected officials. We love to hear from you and believe that an open and respectful dialogue is crucial to our success. Understanding your thoughts and priorities helps us better govern on your behalf. 

We are working with the Kansas Department of Transportation and other partners on improvements to Kansas Highway 10. I hope you will take time to engage with the project website and let KDOT know what you would like to see for this vital corridor.

Another great avenue for sharing feedback is through the budgeting process. As we work on the 2025 budget this summer and fall, I encourage you to review Lenexa’s plans, share your thoughts, and attend the open house we host for the public to engage in the process.

And finally, we are continually looking for ways to improve this State of the City event and would love to hear ideas about what would be meaningful to you during this annual event in the future. Everything is on the table — from the time of day we host the event, to what we talk about, to the event’s format.

Share your feedback

I’d like to offer a special thanks to the Lenexa Chamber for hosting today’s event and our sponsor Evergy for their support.

It is my true honor to serve as Lenexa's mayor, and I invite you to join me on our journey to continue building upon our success and the collective bright future we have ahead. It is our commitment to make every decision with integrity, deliver results through teamwork, provide exceptional service, lead into the future with vision, and be dedicated to excellence because we care. I look forward to the work we have ahead of us in 2024 and will anticipate seeing you back next year when we once again celebrate this special place that we call home. 

Thank you!

Published Feb. 21, 2024