Two JCPRD staff members recently brought home honors from the awards banquet conducted on April 14 in Emporia during the 2021 Kansas Recreation and Park Association Conference.
Executive Director Jeff Stewart received the Leadership Award, while Children’s Services Specialist Rob Knaussman received the Outstanding Recreation Professional Award.
Stewart was nominated by JCPRD Superintendent of Recreation Rhonda Pollard and Superintendent of Culture Susan Mong, who noted that he works and maintains strong healthy relationships not only with boards, staff, and volunteers within JCPRD and the Johnson County Park and Recreation Foundation, but also with officials and staff with other Johnson County Government agencies, numerous cities, and state agencies.
“Jeff has served as a critical leader for the field of park and recreation over this most challenging pandemic season,” the nomination states. “He served on a state committee to provide direct guidance to the governor of Kansas to advocate for best practice approaches in our field. At the county level, Jeff helped write the framework for Cares Act Funding distribution in regards to childcare. He was a member of the very first KRPA leadership class and leads with a steady hand that exudes calm, empathy, and strength, something that is desperately needed at this time. He has also advanced major projects that will impact our region, opening new parks and trails, and renovations to numerous public facilities.”
Stewart serves on KRPA’s Professional Development committee, and in 2020, brought a three-day professional diversity training to all JCPRD staff. He supports “lunch and learns” to help educate staff on topics relating to health and wellness, a culture of LEAP (Leadership Empowers All People), and supports a budget to reinforce this value by allotting staff development funds at all levels of his organization.
He also continually looks forward. As vaccines for COVID began to roll out, he offered JCPRD facilities for distribution, giving the health department options they had not considered. He was quickly invited to sit on a county task force that meets twice daily to discuss vaccine distribution and logistics, what is working, and what needs to change. He ensured staff at JCPRD facilities had the support they needed, including insisting the health department offer vaccines to all JCPRD staff working these sites.
Children’s Services Specialist Rob Knaussman, who was nominated for the KRPA award by Children’s Services Manager Jennifer Anderson, began his career at JCPRD as a college intern. He was hired as a program director in 1996 for an afterschool program and summer camp, and was later promoted to children's services specialist in 2004.
“In 2019, JCPRD received a contract to add 36 additional OST (Out of School Time) programs, essentially doubling the size of our already large Children's Services Department,” Anderson wrote in the nomination. “This would be an enormous task under normal circumstances, but our timeline was very short - we had less than 12 weeks to hire over 100 staff, license the programs, and be ready to begin the season. Rob took the lead role in working with this large school district and was hands on, ensuring that details were not overlooked and that our Gold Medal standards were met. Rob is the epitome of outstanding professionalism and is very much deserving of this recognition - not only for his years of service, but for his ongoing dedication and heartfelt efforts every single day. He has left a distinct mark on JCPRD and our profession as he works to serve our community!”
Anderson also noted that in addition to overseeing OST programs, Knaussman has been “the brains behind several great ideas,” and specifically mentions the annual Great American Family Campout event which hosts hundreds of families for an evening of sleeping under the stars in Shawnee Mission Park, as well as enjoying many of the park's amenities such as the beach and marina, Theatre in the Park, and more.
Knaussman is also a member of the Kansas City Metro Afterschool Alliance, has coached basketball for Special Olympics, and has volunteered in other capacities when needed throughout that last two decades.