City of Shawnee

Mayor Michelle Distler's 2023 State of the City

Mayor Michelle Distler's 2023 State of the City
Posted on 02/24/2023

The video below is Mayor Michelle Distler's State of the City that was presented on February 23, 2023 at the Aztec Shawnee Theater. The full speech is included below.

Thank you all so much for being here at the beautiful Aztec Shawnee Theater in the heart of downtown Shawnee. I hope you enjoyed that Hometown Brew by Servaes Brewery! Courtney and her family, who just added baby Easton, joined our community and immediately submerged themselves in all things Shawnee and formed multiple partnerships with other small businesses. And what about the hometown music played for us tonight by the Daily Special.  

It is hard for me to believe this is my 8th State of the City as Mayor of Shawnee. I can truly tell you I have poured my heart and soul into serving this community and I have enjoyed every minute of it.  

As you know, we have a theme every year, and the theme this year is Hometown With Heart. I am excited to tell you how our community really drove this design. First, I want to thank the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event. Your staff is always flexible when we get new ideas of how to present the State of the City and I think we are all excited to be seated here inside the Aztec Shawnee Theater. It is beautifully restored with so much love thanks to the Calkins and Young families. We are extremely grateful for our strong partnership with the Chamber and all of our local businesses. These relationships are the heartbeat of our community. Let’s pause to recognize Chamber President and CEO Ann Smith-Tate and her incredible staff. Thank you so much! 

Hometown With Heart

Hometown With Heart is our theme for tonight. It was developed as part of the City’s branding process, but the City Council is still working on it. So keep your giveaways as they will someday be collector’s items! 

I am proud of the thorough and thoughtful steps we took while developing this and I couldn’t wait to show it off to all of you. Our staff partnered with Crux KC, many of them are also Shawnee residents, to be out at dozens of events, talking to our community members about what they think makes Shawnee shine. More than 700 people took the survey to give us their feedback. We found the new input is consistent with the feedback we received during previous public engagements like Imagine Shawnee, Achieve Shawnee and numerous other initiatives in our daily conversations with thousands of our residents and businesses. We hosted several small group meet-ups with staff, the Council, the Chamber, local business leaders and organizations. Crux KC was amazing to work with. They put our residents and businesses first and worked magic. Their professionalism is unmatched. 

We dedicated a lot of time into listening to what YOU think. And once we had that, our team of Shawnee residents and staff who work with our citizens and businesses daily,  used all that feedback to drive the design. You’ll notice this design has a familiar feeling to our official seal, almost like an evolution of our seal while staying true to our roots. The Hometown With Heart speaks to everything we all love about Shawnee, this unique city in the heartland. It speaks to the number one thing our residents and businesses say they love about Shawnee, which is that friendly hometown feeling. It speaks to the heart of our community that we see daily with our volunteers, church-city partnership, businesses, city staff, animal rescues and neighbors taking care of one another. No other community has what we have in Shawnee.  

You will notice the word Shawnee and how the font makes you feel the friendly smile in our town. You’ll notice the sun is the same as our seal and the warm colors can feel like fun in the sun or like a blanket wrapped around you on a cold day. You’ll notice the hills and views that so many cherish about our green spaces, parks and trails and when driving Shawnee Mission Parkway or Johnson Drive. Looking at it historically, as the land that was once a truck farming town or, as one of our firefighters said, the view from the Lind bridge looking towards our westward growth and expansion.  

It was truly a magical experience to watch this develop and mean something different to everyone from various backgrounds and viewpoints while at the same time perfecting that feeling of Shawnee to those of us stitched in the fabric of our quilted community. When people know who you are before they meet you, when they understand your friendly culture, THAT is effective branding, versus just a familiar logo.  

And you can’t miss the ‘S’ that the design created entirely by accident. I believe, with all my heart, that when anyone looking to visit or move to Shawnee looks at this, they can feel what makes Shawnee unique from other cities and would want their family or business to be part of our community that we all love so much. One of our City Manager candidates even stated his 22-year-old nephew visited Shawnee and was surprised by our friendly neighborhood feeling. So what does it mean? I can tell you what I think but, more importantly, we want to know what Hometown With Heart means to YOU.  


And to paraphrase another Shawnee resident, “Shawnee has a lovely small town feeling where everyone knows everyone and are kind to one another. Not perfect, but pretty wonderful. I cherish my town.”  

According to the Webster Dictionary, hometown has different meanings to different people. It is a word that is often attributive. It can mean the city or town in which one was born or grew up, it can mean the place of one’s principal residence, or it can be the local feeling of town celebrations and a family-friendly location. Culturally, Shawnee wants everyone to feel at home. I lost count during the recent Super Bowl how many times "heart" was mentioned when referring to our team in the heartland and the heart of the people in the midwest. And having heart is not a trend in Shawnee. It is who most of us are. 

Community of Excellence

We were able to celebrate a huge and rare achievement in the City of Shawnee in 2022. We are proud to say that four of our City Departments have officially achieved accreditation, deeming Shawnee a Community of Excellence. This was topped off with the Parks and Recreation Department earning accreditation last September. In fact, three of the four Departments have already been re-accredited over the past few years.  

This, along with the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce being an accredited five-star Chamber, makes Shawnee one of the elite few cities across the United States to accomplish this designation. Seriously, last time we checked, only three cities have accomplished this. 

So you might be asking yourself why is this important? Well these accreditations are more than just titles. They reflect the combined efforts of the community and staff from all across the City that came together to make this happen. Being a Community of Excellence serves as a badge of honor and a source of pride for our community. It reassures our residents that we are all working to make Shawnee the best place to be. We are always striving to make sure Shawnee’s heart shines through. It has always been a measuring stick for all of our decisions. You will often hear me say it's the little things that make a community. Sometimes, it’s the big things too, like being a Community of Excellence. I want you all to meet some of the employees who helped make these accreditations possible so you can see who is working hard for our community every single day. 

Parks and Recreation

Our amazing Parks and Recreation Department earned its accreditation this past September. That achievement was the crowning jewel for our Community of Excellence distinction.  

When you talk about having a Hometown With Heart, it is easy to understand when you spend time with our Parks and Rec employees. The love they put into their jobs is evident everywhere in our community. You can see it in our beautiful parks when you take your family to play, go for a walk on the trails or gather at a shelter for a birthday party. It’s in the carefully manicured sports fields so your children can safely spend hours practicing soccer, baseball, softball and other activities. It’s at our aquatic centers, filled with splashing and laughter. It’s the landscaping throughout our community that gives Shawnee that extra special touch that makes us proud of our hometown. And the events! All of the wonderful events every year that bring our community together!   

Our staff is constantly striving to provide our community with the best possible ways to engage, explore and connect. They recently secured a $90,000 National Recreation and Park Association Wellness Hub Grant to fund an initiative we’re calling “Healthier Because We Live Here”. Be on the lookout for this because our Parks and Rec staff is working hard to partner with local businesses and organizations to provide new opportunities for you and your family to focus on your health. This was quite an accomplishment and one we are excited to roll out this year.  

We are also investing a lot of time and commitment into making sure our parks, trails and facilities are welcoming to everyone, regardless of their abilities. We are doing a citywide audit and developing a plan to pinpoint where we can improve when it comes to complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. We were excited to add a new part-time position dedicated to Adaptive Recreation Programming and that has been very well-received in our cherished special needs community.  

You’ve also probably noticed some much-needed upgrades at some of our parks including new restrooms at both Gum Springs and Swarner Parks. I am so excited the 13-foot sculpture of Wild Bill Hickok that was started by Charles Goslin and finished by his recommendation of Maretta Kennedy is now installed at Trail Scout Park. And what makes this extra exciting for me, for those that do not know, the beautiful home of wagonmaster Dick Williams, built by the Garrett brothers, originally stood where Walgreens is now. It had been painstakingly taken down stone by stone when Van’s Food Center was built at that site and each stone was individually numbered with future plans to rebuild it at another location. These stones were in an undisclosed location in Shawnee Mission Park but over the years had begun to disappear.  

I had asked our then Parks and Recreation Director Neil Holman if we could use what was left of the stones for the base of this sculpture and to my absolute delight, he made it happen so we are honoring more than just Wild Bill Hickock, our original constable. At Trail Scout Park, we are also honoring the home of the wagonmaster Dick Williams who is seen leading the trail at Pioneer Crossings Park. So if you’ve kept up, we have come full circle. 

Shawnee Town 1929

Shawnee Town 1929 is a big part of that Master Plan and more exciting changes are coming this year as it will be getting some much-needed water system improvements along with a new chapel. I am personally so excited to add this piece to the Shawnee Town 1929 grounds, to give our community another place to gather as they make lifelong memories at weddings and other events. The funding was approved unanimously in the budget, mostly from the Special Parks and Recreation alcohol fund and the rest from the Parks and Pipes fund. It is estimated to pay for itself through rental revenue in approximately 20 years.  The chapel will feature historic stained-glass and pews from Shawnee and will seat dozens of visitors.  I am elated that it has received nothing but positive comments from our community and, I quote, “Faith, family, country. Shawnee is doing something right.” It’s an example of another way we are constantly looking for ways to infuse heart into our *hometown. 

Shawnee Town 1929 had a record year in 2022, the biggest year ever as a museum, with a whopping attendance of 166,046 visitors. Thousands of school-aged kids explored the grounds while getting unique, hands-on learning about life in the 1920s. It was my own third grade field trip to Old Shawnee Town that ignited my passion for Shawnee history. Thousands more people relaxed during a Jammin’ on the Green performance, picked up that perfect gift at the Friends of Shawnee Town Craft Fair or enjoyed a brew during the popular History on Tap series.  Shawnee Town 1929 was created by residents who cared about preserving our history and is something that sets our hometown apart and I am confident we will continue to invest time and resources into our landmark. 

As I talked about during last year’s State of the City, our longtime Parks and Recreation Department Director Neil Holman retired after serving Shawnee for 30 years. We are so fortunate that Deputy Parks and Rec Director Tonya Lecuru has been promoted to Director and is showing incredible heart and leadership in her new role. Let’s give her a round of applause. 

Community Development

Our Community Development Department lays the foundation for the heart of all of Shawnee. Our Community Development employees are often the first impression of the City as people come with questions and plans to open, expand or move new business to Shawnee. I consistently hear that we are the easiest and friendliest city to do business with. And let me tell you, they have been busy. Here are just a few stats. 

  • Staff coordinated new construction valued at nearly $190 million while also issuing more than 1,400 building permits. 

  • Our employees spent hours conducting more than 6,100 building inspections. 

  • We helped give out 31 Shawnee Economic Recovery Assistance Grants that totaled $143,272 and provided a big boost to our local business owners.  

  • The Kansas Neighborhood Revitalization Act added up to $243,694 in property tax rebates. 

  • They have also made some tweaks and changes to the downtown and Shawnee Mission Parkway Gateway zoning guidelines that continue to make sure we are driving the right development for these areas. 

And that’s just a few of Community Development’s highlights! 

I also want to take a moment to recognize our Codes Enforcement Officers, who have an important and often difficult job in our community. They are friendly and work hard to build good relationships with our residents while helping make sure our neighborhoods are clean, maintained and safe. Their patience and dedication is often overlooked when they are dealing with difficult situations, but it IS noticed and valued and we appreciate their work so much. 

Community Development helped pave the way for the beautifully restored Aztec Shawnee Theatre. We are so thankful that Chris and Jeff Calkins and Bruce Young and their families invested so much time, money and heart into bringing our beloved Aztec back to life. It was something so many residents wanted ever since it closed decades ago. It is now a centerpiece of our downtown. Seeing people stream in to catch a concert, worship service, an old movie or another event brings a feeling down here that just cannot be replaced. Another little piece of history trivia for you. The Aztec was originally owned by the City’s third Mayor and it is now playing host to me, the 23rd Mayor, for tonight’s State of the City.  

The Aztec is not the only change that’s happened downtown over the past few years. This area is now bustling with breweries, cocktail bars, restaurants, boutiques, murals, pocket parks, flower and chocolate shops. You can truly spend a day exploring our downtown now. What I love is seeing how new businesses come in and make it their own while also making sure to leave the important historical aspects in place. I am also excited to report that another one of my passion projects, in addition to my other passion projects including new branding, the chapel, and fire stations, is the utility boxes in downtown that are now covered with historical pictures as part of our historical downtown walking tour that will hopefully lead to our entire city interactive historical driving tour. I am excited to see all these things finally coming to fruition and the excitement from the community about them. Let’s take a look at how downtown has changed over the years. 



Public Works

I've been talking a lot about people who care and one place where you’ll find a lot of heart is our Public Works Department. Our engineers spend hours carefully laying out plans to make sure projects will improve things for our community while maintaining that hometown feel. Our stormwater staff is busy using a new camera to scan our underground pipes to make sure they are strong while also quickly identifying when they are not, so we can get them fixed fast. Our employees are using a new paving machine that means they can do more types of repairs than they were able to in the past. They are constantly monitoring street conditions and coordinating paving so your drive around Shawnee can be smooth and safe. When that streetlight gets fixed? Or that pesky pothole gets filled? Or a new stretch of sidewalk gets put in? That is all thanks to Public Works. Let me run down some numbers for you. 

  • Crews milled and overlayed 54 lane miles. 

  • We replaced 40,000 feet of curb and 15,000 feet of sidewalks. 

  • We inspected 85,000 feet of stormwater pipe and installed or repaired nearly 33,000 feet. 

  • You can check out our new snow removal management system that includes a live map for people to track where our plows have been and how recently at

Public Works is behind big changes you’ve seen in Shawnee including the completion of the Monticello Road Project that has traffic moving easier from Shawnee Mission Parkway to just north of 83rd Street. That was a massive undertaking, along with the 75th Street Project that upgraded the stretch between Switzer and Quivira. Those are just a couple of several other projects you see here that our Public Works staff devoted hours of time into. They are doing the little things and the big things that make a community great. They are doing the things that make Hometown With Heart ring true. 

Fire Department

As I mentioned earlier, big things are happening at the Shawnee Fire Department. The Fire Station Project is underway right now at both the John B. Glaser Fire Headquarters on Quivira and Station 73 on Hedge Lane Terrace. We held an official groundbreaking back in December and the $26 million project will provide much-needed upgrades to facilities for our firefighters. We are excited to follow along with the progress and then check out the final reveal that will be coming in 2024. 

The Fire Department is celebrating its re-accreditation that they earned this past August. They continue to stay on the forefront of the Fire industry. Safety for our community and for our firefighters is always the top priority. We invested in updating the alerting systems in Fire Stations 72 and 74 to protect and improve the health and wellness of the men and women who spend their days and nights in those stations. 

More than a dozen firefighters earned promotions to Driver Operator in January. This is an example of how our staff is working to provide opportunities for growth within all of our Departments, so we can make sure Shawnee is a place people want to come and stay, for their careers. 

While this is not a fond memory of all we accomplished in 2022, I do want to say how thankful I am for our firefighters. In July, it was a scary situation when four of our firefighters were hurt in a house when the stairs collapsed. The outpouring of support was swift from our neighboring Fire Departments and our community as a whole. Again, there’s that heart I keep talking about. We are beyond grateful that all the firefighters recovered. And things have changed because of that situation. Our Fire Department worked with our Community Development staff to identify places where we can improve when it comes to construction. Adding just a half inch of sheetrock underneath stairs can provide an extra 20 minutes of protection in a fire. Staff recommended making this change so, moving forward, homes in Shawnee will be safer. It is this kind of cooperation and analysis that shows how much we focus on keeping our community safe.  

Police Department

You want to talk about heart? Your Shawnee Police Department is laser focused on our safety as they serve the community with purpose and care. Officers are now outfitted with new body and car cameras. The technology helps officers on scene and provides evidence for reports, investigations and more.  

  • Police responded to a total of 24,200 citizen-initiated calls for service in 2022 

  • Officers conducted 15,356 officer-initiated situations for things like traffic stops or checking on a suspicious person.  

  • Our dispatchers are the heart and soul of the Police Department, dealing directly with people as they call in, often in times of crisis. They answered 68,045 calls last year, including both 911 calls and administrative calls to dispatch. 

  • Our Mental Health Co-Responders responded to 165 scenes and conducted 734 mental health follow ups. Officers responded to 848 mental health calls for service. The Mental Health Co-Responders have become a vital part of our Police Department and are providing our community with yet another layer of help, care and support. We are very thankful for their work. 

When the weather warms up this year, you’ll be seeing more officers on electric bikes that were purchased with a federal Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) grant. This allows officers to get to areas they can’t if they are in a regular patrol vehicle and also adds another layer of security in different situations.  

It’s safe to say the Police Department’s Community Outreach, Relations and Engagement Unit, also known as CORE, has been busy. They spent time at 130 events throughout the community last year including National Night Out, Faith and Blue, leading the Citizens Police Academy, giving station tours, helping people in need out through Giving the Basics, having a little fun at Trunk or Treat events, and Shop with a Cop at Christmas.  

Our CORE unit also helps coordinate the heart of Shawnee Secret Santa’s generous donation of $10,000. In December, officers passed out $100 bills to people in Shawnee to give them a boost during the holiday season. Secret Santa has made such an impact on our community for years now and we are forever grateful for the generosity and opportunity to do some good right here in Shawnee. Have I mentioned this city has heart? 

You can count on your Police Department to be there, whether you see them or not. They are doing things like security sweeps before, during and after community events, standing by for crowd control situations and patrolling the streets and neighborhoods. They are making the decision to put your safety as a priority every single day they put on that uniform and head to work. They care. They have heart. 

Human Resources

That passion for the job is something that weaves through every inch of our City. Our Human Resources Department completed a compensation study to ensure employee salaries are on par and competitive with neighboring cities. We are proud to say a dozen employees were promoted internally. And we celebrated a total of 56 employees, boards and commission members who have a combined total of 820 years of service!  

Our Human Resources team continues to rack up awards for the wellness program, Shape Up Shawnee, including being named a platinum level Healthy KC certified workplace and a Healthiest Employer from the Kansas City Business Journal. Our staff is fortunate to have such a solid HR staff backing them every step of the way. 

Information Technology

Our Information Technology team once again earned a Digital Cities Award for a number of reasons including providing extensive online services like GIS mapping. IT is an integral part of everything our staff does, no matter which Department they are working for, from the tech in our police cars to the GIS mapping tools to ensuring staff can work from almost anywhere, employees would not be able to do their jobs without the support of IT. 


The Finance staff helped put together a budget that passed unanimously. They earned a number of awards as well including the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting and the Distinguished Budget Award for the 17th year in a row.  

We have held a AAA bond rating since 2019. Think of it as a personal credit rating for the City. AAA is the highest a City can achieve and  something only a handful of communities within the region have. This designation saves taxpayers thousands of dollars each year by securing lower interest rates on our debt, so the bond rating is something we are very proud of. Our Finance team truly cares about making sure your taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly as they allocate funds to help build an even better community. 

City Clerks

If you have not spent time getting to know our City Clerks, they are top notch. The way they maintain such a high level of professionalism while answering countless phone calls, emails and in-person questions is astounding. Our clerks also helped make our Property Tax Rebate Pilot Program an amazing success. They processed 97 applications to help give back $42,834 to residents. It’s a lot of work but, as we’ve been mentioning, our employees have a lot of heart and they do things like this for the good of the community. Thank a clerk next time you see one! 

Volunteer Program

When we talk about the heartbeat of a community, you know our volunteer program will come up. Our hundreds of volunteers combined to provide a staggering 6,700 hours of work in 2022. These are the folks you see tending to our bluebird boxes, keeping their adopt-a-spot clean, serving on our Boards and Commissions, joining me in putting up and taking down the popular Flags 4 Freedom display, working closely with our Police, Fire and Court, clearing snow, and doing all kinds of tasks to build our Neighbors Helping Neighbors program. I guarantee if you ask any of them why they volunteer, the answer is not for the fame and glory. It is because they like helping their hometown. Their heart is in it. They enjoy making Shawnee a place where we all belong and can help each other out. They certainly aren’t in it for the money, but to put it in perspective, all of their free volunteer work would add up to more than $200,000 if you put a price to it. That’s incredible and I’d love to give each and every one of our volunteers a round of applause. 

Municipal Court

We’ve seen changes within our Municipal Court, including bringing the City Attorney position in house. Our legal team won a jury trial at district court in 2022 with the help of our Police Department. Court staff has continued the School Supplies for Fines program, collecting nearly 700 dollars worth of new school supplies for local kids while clearing more than two thousand dollars in fines and fees. 

City Manager's Office

Change is also happening in leadership, as Nolan Sunderman resigned as City Manager. I am hoping the Council’s recent decision for the next leader for Shawnee will continue the path forward for our community with care, thought and heart. I want to also pause to thank Interim City Manager Doug Whitacre and Deputy City Manager Caitlin Gard for stepping in as soon as Nolan left to make sure the City didn’t miss a beat. Unless you are in that role, it is hard to imagine the amount of work involved with keeping things steady as an organization undergoes quite a bit of change. If you ask staff, they’ll tell you Doug and Caitlin did a phenomenal job and I second that.

Hometown With Heart

And speaking of heart, we had the best time with the Parade of Hearts as we had five placed throughout our community. Thousands of people on the scavenger hunt to find them all visited Shawnee to take pictures with them. One of those, named All In It Together, has a permanent place in our City now. A Shawnee artist created it and we love seeing the flood of people who come place their locks on it outside City Hall. The hearts will return in 2023 and 2024! It’s another example of our Hometown, quite literally, with heart! 

The downtown heart stood as a centerpiece for many of our events including our second successful season of Moonlight Markets. The City’s community events continue to be a source of pride as families make memories at Old Shawnee Days, bring little ones out to watch fireworks at Parked or wheel out the bikes for the annual Tour de Shawnee. 

As another example of how Hometown With Heart rings true in our community, our Hometown Hero program expanded, allowing our community to honor more local veterans and active servicemembers whose names were displayed on banners up and down Nieman and Johnson Drive in the heart of our downtown. 

The Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund gave a big boost to both Shawnee Community Services and Mercy and Truth Medical Missions this year. You all helped us raise $19,114. We’d also like to thank both Wandering Vine and Servaes Brewery for partnering with us on fun events that helped raise even more money for these amazing organizations. 

I also had the distinct pleasure of honoring Jackson Fuser and Nick Lohman. These De Soto High students jumped into action and performed CPR on a woman at the B&B Theater in October. Jackson and Nick continued CPR until crews arrived and took over. The woman survived and we are honored to have these Good Samaritans in our community. I know I have said it countless times as it is another passion and overreaching goal of mine to have the majority of our residents attend both the Citizen Police and Fire Academies and learn these lifesaving skills so we are a safer community overall. The Fire Department will teach you these emergency preparedness skills for free!  

Some fun facts I always share when I’m speaking to the kids is that the City of Shawnee is the same size as Disney World, yes, 42 square miles, and that your Mayor’s birthday (yes, yours truly) is the same as Mickey Mouse. I feel we have even more commonalities as Walt Disney was a visionary and wanted a place that was a clean, safe, fun, friendly environment for families, the same thing we wish for our City. Disney's motto was Dream, Believe, Dare, Do.  And he’s known for saying, "The more you are in a state of gratitude, the more you will attract things to be grateful for." Mickey Mouse is also the perfect way to show you how well this brand that was developed coordinates with our official City seal and our downtown brand.  

As you can probably tell, I could keep you all here for hours telling you about all the achievements, accomplishments, and things that make Shawnee so wonderful. But just know this. Every single City employee cares. They have chosen to work for Shawnee and they care about the community. Most of them don’t just work here, they love Shawnee so much they live here too. They care about you as they do their jobs day in and day out. And as long as we have that, I know we are on the right path. 

Honoring Those We Lost

Before I wrap up, I want to say a few words about the passing of Kevin Fern in December. This is my first State of the City without him. Kevin was the Executive Director of Visit Shawnee, a lifelong Shawnee resident, with the exception of a few years, and, more importantly, my dear friend. Kevin put Shawnee on the tourism map and was our biggest cheerleader. He is responsible for our future Valley of Champions. He knew everything about Shawnee history, including the scandalous stories. With his ornery giggle, he added the scandalous questions to our trivia game. He not only knew everybody, he knew their siblings, cousins, and pretty much their entire family tree and every house they lived in and job they held. His care for our history and our future and growth unmatched. You would see him at every event with his light blue balloons, showing Shawnee’s heart and smile. He was always the life of the party and one of the best friends I could have ever hoped for. If anyone represents the heart of Shawnee, it was Kevin. He was bestowed the honor of Citizen of the Year at the annual chamber dinner in January. I promise generations to come will know his name and impact. Kevin was part of this Hometown with Heart image we created and I’m proud to have worked with him on this final project and honor him with it today. 

Unfortunately, shortly after losing Kevin, Shawnee suffered another devastating blow that absolutely broke my heart. We lost world renowned Charles Goslin, our most valued historian, gifted artist, and my dear friend. He was a gift to Shawnee and left us a phenomenal legacy.

I remember the first time I met him at one of his art showings in Shawnee. Starstruck, I gushed at being his biggest fan because I loved his work and how he depicted Shawnee so beautifully with historical accuracy. He was so humble and had the most amazing smile and friendly, yet mischievous twinkling eyes. Some of his most recognizable work includes Chief Bluejacket, Pioneer Crossings, the shepherd at Good Shepherd church, his famous paintings of Shawnee including the Old Shawnee Days parade in downtown, and the mural of Shawnee history at City Hall. He was in his late 80's when he climbed up there on scaffolding to clean and care for his beloved artistic storytelling of Shawnee’s history. When I walked into the foyer and saw that he had secretly added me as the first female mayor to our history, I have never been so overwhelmed. I could not catch my breath. Tears flowed uncontrollably  at the honor he bestowed on me to be painted by my favorite artist captured in the history of my favorite place.

I was beyond blessed to know him and receive a personal tour of his home, a place that was an amazing museum and studio. I was an eager student of his artifacts and stories and all of his beautiful images depicting Shawnee with heart. He gifted my daughter with a cherished opportunity to see and learn such things. As we played Shawnee trivia, he expressed absolute glee at the questions about him. Charles tried to dissuade me from washing our ice cream dishes stating I cannot do that as I am “the Mayor” to which I laughed and responded he is correct and so it is my job to serve him, but I could not have been more honored to wash the dishes of "the" Charles Goslin. Charles often talked about Shawnee having/being something special. He brought so much of his heart to our beloved community. 

Moving Forward

As we move forward through 2023, I hope we all take note from how both Kevin and Charles lived their lives,  which was with a lot of heart. They were friends to everyone they met. Each one of us have a responsibility to make our community what we want it to be. We can do that by supporting each other, building each other up, rooting for the Shawnee team and simply being kind. Let’s agree to care for one another and our City, to lift each other up, and to be the reason Shawnee is forever everyone’s Hometown With Heart.