In my column last month I shared some news about some of our honorees for our annual Toast to Our Towns Gala on Oct. 14 – Brad and Sandy Cox, Humanitarians of the Year; Cable-Dahmer Auto Group, Heartland Corporate Citizen of the Year; and Ron Finke our Professional Advisor of the Year. This month I am pleased to share information about our seven Citizens of the Year being recognized by their community’s mayor.

The Citizens of the Year are individuals who exemplify a spirit of service to their community and typically have been very quietly making a significant impact in their community through their volunteer and civic engagement for many years. While they are recognized as the 2017 Citizen from their community, the recognition is for their consistent involvement over time. They are not actively involved because they are looking for recognition, they simply believe everyone giving back to their community is what is required for a community to thrive. Let me highlight a few of our Citizens of the Year from communities served by The Examiner.

• Mayor Carson Ross of Blue Springs is recognizing N.T. Reed (Nick) Burrus. He recently celebrated his 90th birthday. After working at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant during the Korean War, he used his skills working as a carpenter in the service to found Burrus Construction, the Blue Springs Development Company and the Nick Burrus Builder Company. His home building companies have built hundreds of homes in Blue Springs and the surrounding area, including custom homes for members of the Kansas City Chiefs. His businesses have supported building rehabilitation projects like the 1860s Volker Home and a local AMC theater. He has also been an active Shriner for 38 years.

• Mayor Mike Todd of Grain Valley is recognizing James T. Cook. Jim served as Grain Valley’s city attorney for 41 years and is a partner and founding member of the law firm of Berkowitz, Cook, Gondring and Driskell. He has worked with many mayors and aldermen over the years and hosts an annual luncheon each December for city employees. Working with the police department he has helped design youth diversion programs, which include community service and education programs. He has also been involved in the police department’s Victim Services Golf Tournament and the Grain Valley Fair.

• Mayor Eileen Weir is recognizing Brad Speaks, president and CEO of Speaks Family Legacy Chapels. Brad and I serve on the board of the Independence Rotary Club and I know from personal experience that he is a go-to leader in the Independence Community. He has served in many civic leadership positions over the years, including chair of the Independence Chamber of Commerce, chairman of Independence Civic Council, EDC board member, Centerpoint Medical Center trustee and Jackson County Historical Society Board member. Recently, he took on the job of providing leadership for the fundraising campaign to generate $400,000 in private support to build a state-of-the-art Farmers Market in downtown Independence on the Square. The city has already committed $600,000 for this project. Brad is also chairing our Rotary Club’s annual Mardis Gras Gala with all net proceeds going this year to this project. One of Brad’s keys to success is that he always enjoys his service to the community and his positive attitude draws others in because they enjoy working with him.

• Mayor Tom Goddard of Lake Tapawingo recognizes George W. (Renny) Buckaloo Jr., who is a doctor of veterinary medicine. He has been a part of the Lake Tapawingo community for 22 years and since 2006 has had a focus on keeping the lake free of invasive species and the water quality at an optimum level. The program he developed requires each resident to complete invasive species training every two years to have lake use privileges. Through his leadership they also have weekly water quality testing performed by volunteer teams using state of the art water testing equipment.

• Mayor Michael Larson of Sugar Creek is recognizing Joseph Kennedy. He is a lifelong Sugar Creek resident and was active on the board of aldermen and served as mayor pro tem from 2012 to 2017. He has also volunteered with Boy Scout Troop 221, and Knights of Columbus Council 3430, where he served as Grand Knight, and then as district deputy for the Knights of Columbus. He also serves on the Holy Cross Catholic School Board and is active at Nativity of Mary Parish.

Other area mayors recognizing their Citizen of the year are: Mayor Randy Rhoads of Lee’s Summit recognizing Laurence Pressly, and Mayor Mike McDonough of Raytown recognizing Steve Mock (posthumously).

As you can see we have a great group of Citizens of the Year to honor this year. We are going to have a wonderful celebration on Oct. 14 of these individuals and others who help make their community a great place to live, work and raise families. I hope you can join us for our “Toast to our Towns.”

– Phil Hanson is president and CEO of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, based in Independence.

NOTE: This article has been corrected to indicate NT Burrus' Korean War years employment.