The Johnson County Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners has announced Deputy Director Jeff Stewart has been tapped to serve as the Johnson County Park and Recreation District’s next executive director.
Following an executive session called to consider personnel matters during its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday night, the board voted unanimously to appoint Stewart to the position effective Sept. 21. This will follow the Sept. 20 departure of current Executive Director Jill Geller, who announced her resignation during the board’s July 24 meeting, and who accepted a position of Parks, Recreation, and Libraries Director for the city of Roseville, Calif.
“JCPRD has received national recognition, accolades, gold medals, and accreditations for our management of parks and recreation programs,” said Board Chair Steve Baru. “That happens because we have talented staff. Because of the demonstrated talent we already have in house, we knew we wouldn’t need to look far to find our next leader. Jeff has proven his leadership skills as deputy director and the board saw him as a natural fit to step in and fill the executive director position. We are lucky to have Jeff and his talents to lead the JCPRD into the future.”
“Jeff has served our agency very well in his role as deputy director for the past 3½ years, and he’s certainly ready for this next step,” Geller said of the board’s action. “As the best park and recreation agency in the nation, JCPRD deserves the best executive director. There is no doubt that we have that in Jeff. Under his leadership, there are great times ahead for our organization. I will be watching, cheering for you, and celebrating JCPRD’s many successes from California.”
“I couldn’t be more honored and excited for the opportunity and trust to serve the Johnson County community as executive director for JCPRD,” Stewart said. “The future is very bright as we have the best team of dedicated professionals, commissioners, volunteers, and partners that are committed to building on our rich tradition of providing the best park and recreation services in the country.”
Stewart began as JCPRD’s first-ever deputy director in April 2016. He brought 22 years of previous professional parks and recreation experience, and had served as the director of the parks and recreation department for the city of Gardner since March of 2000.
As deputy director, Stewart has served as superintendent of JCPRD’s Administrative Services Division, providing oversight and support for all departments within the division. Additionally, he facilitated cooperative projects with area municipalities, made presentations to area groups, represented JCPRD on county committees and workgroups, and served as a JCPRD ambassador throughout the community. He coordinated and oversaw implementation of the Legacy Plan, and worked on various special projects. He also served as executive director in Geller’s absence.
Prior to his 16 years with the city of Gardner, Stewart worked for about two years as recreation specialist for the Independence, Kan., Recreation Commission, and about four years as assistant director of parks and recreation for the city of Junction City, Kan.
Stewart is a graduate of Kansas State University where he was a member of the Kansas State Baseball Team, and earned a bachelor of science degree in parks and recreation administration. He is a Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP), and has been recognized with the Kansas Recreation and Park Association’s (KRPA) Distinguished Professional Award. His leadership in the field includes three terms as a board member for the KRPA. He is a current member for the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan Committee and the Kansas Recreation Park Association Professional Development Committee.
He previously served as chairperson for the Kansas City Metropolitan Area Parks and Recreation Directors Association, a member of the Midwest Regional Council Board of Directors, and as a member of KRPA’s Administration Branch Committee. Locally, he continues to serve on the USD 231 Facilities and Planning Committee and as a volunteer coach to numerous youth athletic teams. He is also an active member of the Gardner Rotary Club.
Stewart’s wife of 24 years, Christine, is a physical therapist for Olathe Medical Center. They are the parents of 21-year-old Taylor and 17-year-old Brock. Stewart is a sports fan, with emphasis on baseball, and in his free time enjoys fishing, hiking, biking, camping, , and playing in the Senior Baseball League at Mid-America Sports Complex.