Lee’s Summit Director of Public Works announces retirement

April 9, 2014 

Lee’s Summit Public Works Director Chuck Owsley announced his retirement after spending 16 years leading one of the largest city departments.

Owsley will retire May 2, he announced in a letter to the city manager April 1.

Deputy Director of Public Works/City Engineer Dena Mezger will serve as the acting director while the city makes a national search for a replacement.

Owsley said he truly enjoyed working for the city its management team, elected officials, citizens and business owners and city staff from all departments.

“I am extremely proud of the achievements of the Public Works Department,” Owsley said, “Especially becoming the first public works agency in the metro area and the sixteenth nationwide to become nationally accredited by the American Public Works Association.”

Owsley has been public works director since 1997, and is responsible for the daily operation for the divisions of Airport, Engineering & Administration, Operations and Solid Waste with a combined total budget of approximately $20 million.

“I have been given the privilege of working with Chuck Owsley for approximately 13 years. He has always impressed me as an outstanding professional who was dedicated to giving the City his very best every day,’’ said City Manager Steve Arbo. “We were fortunate to find an individual with his diversity of knowledge and leadership strengths.’’

Art Davis, a former Lee’s Summit city administrator, who is now president of a local management consulting firm said: “He is a humble, high integrity, behind the scenes professional and is one of the many individuals who have helped to make this community such a great place to live.”

Owsley began his career with the Public Works Department of Kansas City and during 29 years there rose through the ranks to serve as city engineer from 1994 to 1997. He held positions as a designer for sanitary, storm sewers and streets, resident construction engineer, assistant superintendent of street maintenance and assistant city engineer. After his retirement he was recruited to lead Lee’s Summit’s public works efforts during a time when the community was faced with significant challenges for roads to serve the growing community.

“When we recruited Chuck Owsley to become Lee’s Summit’s Public Works Director, he had already established himself as one of the top public sector engineering professionals in the country as city engineer for Kansas City,” Davis said. “Because Lee’s Summit was the fastest growing community in Missouri and the entire metro area at the time, we needed someone who could handle the significant pressures that came with the job. Chuck provided calm, steady leadership and Public Works has continued to progress and achieve significant success.”

An example is the City’s improved satisfaction with infrastructure. The city conducted a citizen survey in 2004 asking questions regarding public infrastructure in our community. The survey revealed a satisfaction rating of 34 percent at that time. In 2013, a follow-up survey with the same questions showed the satisfaction rate increased to 67 percent, nearly double from ten years earlier. That same 2004 survey also revealed that only 32 percent of citizens were satisfied with the “flow of traffic” in our community. By 2013, the satisfaction level with traffic flow had increased to 57 percent. These recent approval ratings are also well above the national average for municipalities.

Owsley received numerous awards, including the Ken Cardwell Heart of America Award by the Kansas City Metro Chapter of the American Public Works Association in 2010; Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year award from APWA in 2002; the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Civil Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni award in 2001; and recognition for Outstanding Support to Lee’s Summit Parks & Recreation in 2001.

Under his leadership, the Public Works Department received accreditation by the American Public Works Association in 2004 and national re-accreditation in 2008 and 2012.

Owsley also led efforts for improving Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport, through the Airport Business Plan by the Lee’s Summit City Council in 2011. The plan was developed to assess the potential to improve the airport’s financial performance, economic development and operation.

Other highlights:

• Automatic Vehicle Locating on equipment used for snow removal to monitor the location of equipment and what task the equipment is performing.

• Developed Public Works Strategic Plan setting both short- and long-term goals and initiatives. Major focus includes improved customer service, productivity and efficiency, employee relations and future planning for solid waste services.

• Implemented the first 10-Year Road Plan, which was funded by the voter-approved sales and excise tax in 1997. One of the last projects completed with funding from this road plan was the Pryor Road improvements from 4th Street to Longview Road.

• Led the effort for the renewal of the sales tax for the 10-Year Road Plan.

• Adoption of the Lee’s Summit Missouri Thoroughfare Master Plan which established short- and long-term transportation improvement priorities in response to the rapid growth in population that occurred in Lee’s Summit between 1970 and 1990.

• Helped with voter-approval of no-tax increase general obligation bond issues that led to building the Maintenance Facility on Hamblen Road; curb and gutter replacement, sidewalk repairs, storm water projects, and the new salt domes.

• Increased environmental programs to increase recycling and decrease waste, including expansion of Resource Recovery Park, where yard waste, mulch and compost are processed and recycling is accepted for white goods, carpet, electronics and asphalt shingles, added drop-off recycling centers, where glass, paper, aluminum, tin, cardboard and plastics recycling are offered to residents..

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