In the tiny city of Lake Tapawingo – surrounded by Independence and Blue Springs – the health of the namesake lake is everything.

Tapawingo residents can thank George “Renny” Buckaloo for that high quality of their lake's health. He will be one of the honorees at the Truman Heartland Community Foundation's 22nd annual Toast to Our Towns Gala, Oct. 14 at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center.

More than a decade ago, Buckaloo organized an ongoing invasive species resistance program for lake residents, one that educates new residents and requires renewed certification for lake privileges. In addition, four years ago he started an in-house water quality monitoring program – making testing more frequent and also saving the city plenty of money.

“He's just a real mild-mannered guy who would seem to prefer to stay in the background, but he works his tail off for our community,” said Lake Tapawingo Mayor Tom Goddard, who nominated Buckaloo. “He's basically responsible for educating the lake (citizens) and new people that come in.

“We're one of the few lakes around here that doesn't have zebra mussels, and you can give him almost total credit.”

Buckaloo, who is retired from a longtime veterinary career in Independence, had been to a couple Toast to Our Towns galas from his time on the JobOne Board of Directors and said he couldn't have been more surprised when Goddard told him he would be honored.

“Probably like everyone who gets honored, you don't feel like you deserve it,” Buckaloo said, “but I was really honored and humbled and totally shocked.”

As a vet, it would seem natural for Buckaloo to have an interest in microbiology. Several years ago, he noticed how much money the city was spending for an outside entity to do monthly water testing and convinced the lake board that in-house testing could be possible.

“I knew there was a methodology, and I did some research on the different techniques available,” Buckaloo said. “It's every user-friendly, and there's very little error source. It's very straightforward."

After the upfront cost for state-of-the-art testing equipment, Buckaloo recruited and trained a group of citizen volunteers to perform weekly tests. The savings, he and Goddard said, have been “a ton.”

Buckaloo said they test for E. coli bacteria, and they've also tested for silt runoff in connection with a road project in town.

“It was far easier (to gather volunteers) than I anticipated,” Buckaloo said.

“They check every cove in our lake weekly to make sure the water's safe for use,” Goddard said. “We get immediate results.”

Buckaloo, who has lived in Lake Tapawingo more than 20 years, also serves on the lake board's dredging committee. The retired vet now commutes a couple times a week to work with the Mizzou Animal Cancer Center in Wentzville.

“He's a really active guy, but soft-spoken,” Goddard said. “He really is the backbone of all those groups.”