Mark Ousnamer joked that he is a glorified waterboy for the Best Midwest Sports club lacrosse team.
Ousnamer, principal owner of Lee’s Summit based-engineering firm IES, is one of four candidates for three open seats on the R-7 school district’s board of education. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, Ousnamer received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri. A former resident of Kansas City, Ousnamer moved to Lee’s Summit a few years ago.
The father of five has a son, 17-year-old Christian, who is heavily involved with lacrosse as a member of the Lee’s Summit North High School club lacrosse team. It was Christian who introduced Ousnamer to the sport and the Best Midwest club team.
Now, Ousnamer is a full-fledged ‘gofer’ for the organization, heading up a caravan to places such as Dallas, Chicago, and Little Rock, Ark. to participate in competitive tournaments. Ousnamer and his wife, Marcy, have three children currently enrolled in Lee’s Summit R-7 Schools.
“My son started playing for North three years ago,” Ousnamer said during a recent workout at Lee’s Summit High School. “With all the ping-ponging around the coaches were like, ‘you guys can’t expect to come out and play varsity lacrosse and play at the top of your game if you don’t pick up a stick in the off-season.’ So, you started getting different travel teams that sprung up to help guys keep working on their skills.
“That’s how I got tied in with these guys; my son got in there. I’ve always been involved in sports and the kids’ school activities, but it was just one of those things where as a parent I kept showing up so consistently they were like, ‘hey do you want to drive?’ and it’s like, ‘sure, no problem.’ I like driving and stuff like that and I like being involved.”
Ousnamer’s hard work is appreciated by Best Midwest Sports coach Tanner Briggs, who also doubles as the lacrosse coach at Lee’s Summit High.
“What Mark adds to my organization is a lot of structure and a lot of guidance on the sideline for me,” Briggs said, downplaying Ousnamer’s self-effacing quips. “He makes sure the boys stay in line. He talks to them and communicates with them and makes sure they are focused on the game. Mark brings a wealth of knowledge to these kids that these kids grasp on to.”
Away from the field, Ousnamer runs IES while also lending his skills and expertise as a heavily-sought after consultant. He plans to use his background as an engineer, business owner and turn-around specialist as a drawing card in his run for school board.
“My background is in industrial engineering,” Ousnamer said. “I’m also a licensed professional engineer, so I’ve always been involved in my kids’ school. It’s one of those things that I look at some of the things that are going on in the school (district) and I go, ‘you know I could bring a lot to the school (district).
“As a consultant – I’ve had my own engineering firm for 24 years so that’s not going to be something where I can go in and they can afford to hire me. But for free; if I donate time and I put back to the community, at this point in my career it seems like the right thing to do. At some point there’s got to be something giving back to the community.”
A recent state audit conducted in the district caught Ousnamer’s attention. The district received a ‘good’ rating but several red flags were raised in the audit. Those flags, minor in some eyes, caused major concerns for the self-admitted financial geek.
“I have a tremendous amount of experience in capital projects; running large corporations,” Ousnamer said. “In the last 10, 15 years I’ve been focused on you either go into a department within an organization that is not performing up to the rest of the corporate standards or if you’ve got a corporation – and there have been several that I’ve worked with on the verge of bankruptcy – where the bank said, ‘we’re going to pull the note and we’re going to shut you down.’
“I’ve done that enough … It’s fun, but at this point it’s about giving back to the school board.”
The school board run is Ousnamer’s first attempt at an elected position. He hopes his professional experience isn’t overshadowed by his penchant for goofing off and wise-cracking about his status as a “Mr. Do Everything” for the Best Midwest club.
“I keep hearing so much about state funding being in limbo and that the local funding is dropping because of the economy,” Ousnamer said. “Houses are being reevaluated and dropped down and that affects your tax revenue. Well, that’s not any different than what private industry is saying: ‘It’s shrinking and we don’t have as much money.’ How do we intelligently conserve our funds and still provide a quality product?
“In this case, with the school district, it’s our kids’ education. That’s a little more important and I have the expertise to do that. I honestly believe I can bring a lot to the table.”
Asked if he is ever bored of the engineer talk supplied by Ousnamer during the several regional and national road trips the club takes regularly to compete, Briggs said: “Holy cow, sleep is an understatement; more like a coma. No, no, no. Mark offers me personally a lot of wisdom from his engineering background. BMS is my company and it’s grown from being real small to having two travel teams that travel all over and Mark has been there every step of the way. He’s giving us a lot of guidance and a lot of insight on how the business can be better and how the boys can get better as well.”
The third in a four-part series highlighting the candidates for three open seats on the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District’s Board of Education.