Mayors from Eastern Jackson County often have to collaborate on policy, community engagement and other projects. Most of the time, “serious stuff (they) have to deal with” – as Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross sums it up – dominates the discussion.

However, Thursday night’s Eighth Annual Mayors’ Hotshot Basketball Challenge at the Grain Valley Community Center gave municipal leaders from seven area cities an opportunity to bond through play, not work.

Ross, Grain Valley’s Mike Todd, Grandview’s Leonard Jones, Independence’s Eileen Weir, Lee’s Summit’s Bill Baird, Oak Grove’s Jeremy Martin, Raytown’s Mike McDonough and Sugar Creek’s Mark Larson ditched their typical dress code for shorts and T-shirts. They drew numbers to see who would shoot baskets first, then teasingly trashed talked their way through three rounds of the competition as Blue Springs Councilman Dale Carter provided commentary.

“We’ve been doing this as long as I’ve been mayor. We get to come together, give each other a hard time and have the community cheer us on,” Weir said. “It gets all the municipal leaders involved, regardless of their age or how athletic they are.”

In fact, Ross said he looks forward to the event every year, even if he never practices. Sporting a backward baseball cap, he recalled the first basketball challenge, which unfolded outdoors on the Blue Springs South High School court. Since that first game eight years ago, the event has expanded to include more mayors and has drawn bigger crowds.

“This is the first time I’ve picked up a ball since last year. I just come out once a year and play,” Ross said. “I think the camaraderie and poking fun at each other is the best part. We just let it all out.”

As for the results, Larson took first place with nine baskets, McDonough came in second with eight and Ross rounded out third with seven.

Next, city administrators – including Lee Summit’s Steve Arbo, Oak Grove’s Steven Craig, Grain Valley’s Ryan Hunt, Blue Springs’ Eric Johnson, Pleasant Hill’s Shelby Tuefel and Independence’s Zach Walker – took the court.

While Craig landed in third place by making six baskets, Johnson and Walker tied, bringing them to a deciding shoot-out. Johnson ended up in first place with four additional baskets, while Walker fell flat with zero baskets in the round and took second place.

After the matchups, city leaders and community members socialized over hot dogs.

The annual basketball shoot-out kicks off the 2018 Municipal Challenge, which will continue until Sept. 28 at various Jackson County locations with events like table tennis, kickball and dodgeball. For more information on 2018 Municipal Challenge events, contact Blue Springs city clerk Sheryl Morgan at 816-655-0494.