Making sure JCPRD parks and facilities are accessible and inclusive, and implementation of the agency’s public art plan are two issues which the 2022 chair of the Johnson County Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners feels strongly about.
“We are committed to ensuring that all residents of Johnson County feel welcomed and included in all the programs that we offer and all the spaces we manage and maintain,” said Heather Rubesch of Prairie Village. “Accessibility of our programs to all residents of Johnson County has us taking a look at our ADA compliance, at our financial policies with regards to fee sharing and scholarships, and with hiring and programing locations. In fall of 2021, we updated our non-discrimination policies to include gender identity and expression and adopted a first-ever diversity and inclusion statement for JCPRD.
“In 2022 we are furthering that work by opening an additional inclusive playground at Meadowbrook Park to add to the two we already have in Stilwell Community Park and Shawnee Mission Park. We are looking to expand a program that currently exists at the Johnson County Museum to offer an Emerging Museum Professional paid internship to encourage members of minority communities into the field of museum studies. I hope by the end of 2022 we have similar internship opportunities in other areas of JCPRD to increase representation and further our inclusion efforts.”
Rubesch said she is also looking forward to seeing progress on the JCPRD public art program on several fronts in 2022.
“In 2020 we approved a public art master plan to begin fundraising, and in 2021 put out calls for artists,” she said. “A committee narrowed the selection to three choices, and the public voted on our first public art piece. That fabrication and installation is underway now and the piece will be installed and unveiled at Meadowbrook Park this summer. Additionally, calls for artists are out for a mural at Okun Fieldhouse and an Artist in Residence program. Since the Culture Division was added to JCPRD with the opening of the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center five years ago, it has opened up tremendous collaboration between JCPRD and local artists and historians to bridge art, history, and our parks and trails to create a visually-stunning story that is both beautiful and educational. I can't wait for the public to see all that is in the works.”
The new board chair said she proud of how creative and “out of the box “ JCPRD staff are at meeting new challenges, especially during this time of COVID.
“There was just no end to the ways staff continued to serve the community during the unprecedented times of 2020 and 2021,” she said. “Much of that programming and innovation is also now here to stay. Finding ways to meet residents in new situations and provide new recreational and educational opportunities is just part of the lifeblood of JCPRD and one of the reasons it consistently ranks in the top three services on Johnson County Government surveys. I believe there is something within JCPRD for every Johnson County resident.”
Rubesch also wants the community to know just how seriously JCPRD and the board takes community feedback.
“We really do welcome public comments at our meetings, when we solicit input on park design master plans, and when we ask for votes for our public art pieces,” she said. “I have seen policies change such as our decision to allow eBikes on our park trails because of citizen feedback. Most recently with our proposed diversity and inclusion statement, over 200 people wrote to us in support of adoption of the statement’s language. I hope all residents of Johnson County will feel free to share their experiences and suggestions with the board and staff. JCPRD is an organization for all of us.”
Rubesch first joined the JPRD board in 2019. She has 25 years of experience in software service and sales. She is currently Director of Customer Success at Fenris Digital. Her previous employers in this field have included Pitney Bowes Software, MapFlow and Sprint. She is also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where she met her husband of 27 years, Jeff, at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in Belton, Mo. The couple has lived in Johnson County since 1999 and in Prairie Village since 2010 and are the parents of two children, a college freshman at Columbia College Chicago and a high school senior at Shawnee Mission East headed to Pittsburg State University in the fall. In addition to her human children she is the proud mother of three rescue dogs and enjoys volunteering for Randi's Rockin' Dachshund Rescue running their fundraising auctions, transporting to vet visits, and conducting home visits. Her pandemic foster fail Tilly, is a frequent visitor to JCPRD events and helped with the ribbon cutting at John Barkley Plaza where she was a crowd favorite.
Other 2022 Officers
Other board officers for 2022 elected during the board’s December meeting are: Bob Carlson, vice chair; Steve Baru, secretary; George J. Schlagel, treasurer; Kevin Fern, assistant secretary; Dan Forgy, assistant treasurer; Leslee Rivarola, past chair; and Board of County Commissioners Board Member Jeff Meyers.
Regular Board Meetings are held on the third Wednesday of each month beginning at 7 p.m. in the JCPRD Administration Building, 7900 Renner Road, Shawnee and Lenexa. For more about the board and its meetings, visit https://jcprd.com/228/Board-of-Park-Rec-Commissioners.