It was her passion for parks and the outdoors that led Heather Rubesch of Prairie Village to successfully apply for a post on the Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners of the Johnson County Park and Recreation District. Rubesch was recently appointed to the first district seat on the JCPRD board by Johnson County Commissioner Becky Fast and plans to attend her first regular meeting on March 20.
“As a family we have spent so many hours at the JCPRD facilities, and I feel it is one of the best things about living in Johnson County,” she said. “When I talk to friends about our families’ adventures at Shawnee Mission Lake in our kayaks or the geocaching activity that my Brownie Troop did several years ago at Antioch Park, I find that many don’t know these options are available, so I hope to be an informed promoter of the many diverse programs that are available. I feel like many residents know JCPRD for their local park, the after school programs, or the camps they offer during the summers, but they don’t realize the full scope of what JCPRD has to offer.”
Rubesch has 20 years of experience in software service and sales, including 13 years at Pitney Bowes Software, where she is currently a solution architect. Her previous employers in this field have included GeoAccess, Cigna, and Sprint PCS.
She is also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where she met her husband of 24 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, Jacob, 16, and Krissy, 14. She is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Shawnee Trail District Committee, chapter president for the Pittsburg State Chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta Alumnae, and a band booster and cheer booster for the Shawnee Mission East PTA.
“I have tried in each of those roles to be collaborative, a curious observer, and a forever student,” she said. “I plan to use that lifetime of experiences and perspectives to assist the board and to work towards meeting the needs of the citizens of Johnson County.”
Both of Rubesch’s children participated in JCPRD gymnastics programs, and she served on the Kansas Kips Booster Club for four years where she was instrumental in lobbying for the inclusion of a foam pit at the Mill Creek Activity Center, and also worked with staff to secure additional gymnastics equipment for the center. This experience also allowed her to see district employees and leadership at work.
“As a patron of so many of the JCPRD programs through the years with my kids, I really have never had a bad experience,” Rubesch said. “More often than not I have been delighted with how the employees go above and beyond.”
One issue the new board member said she feels strongly about is maintaining inclusivity for all populations. She explained that her mother was paralyzed from the hip down on her left leg in a car accident when she was 19 and wore a brace, and as a result used a cane and later a motorized scooter.
“Despite having limited mobility, she was an avid outdoors woman,” Rubesch said of her mother. “She loved to fish, canoe, and camp. We visited dozens of national parks in my childhood and very rarely was my mom’s disability a factor in our ability to see everything we wanted to see. I want that same experience for anyone in Johnson County with a disability when they interact with JCPRD. I am very pleased with the Special Populations programs that do exist but I think there is always more than can be done to be inclusive.”
Because she lives close to and represents the area where Meadowbrook Park is nearing completion, Rubesch said she is particularly interested in making sure that facility is a “real treasure” for the local community.
“Northeast Johnson County is actually one of the areas with the least amount of JCPRD facilities and options, so I think it is a really wonderful opportunity to increase participation in a portion of the community that is not as used to spending time in JCPRD parks so they can see the tremendous benefits that are available,” she said.