The Happy Dog Dance

Late Friday afternoon, the Mattie Rhodes Center announced that Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner will be the next executive director of NEAT, succeeding Mary Cyr who is now serving with the Downtown Overland Park Community Improvement District.

For those who are not aware, this appointment is huge for the Historic Northeast community. And when this city-savvy news-pooch says huge, we mean Huge with a capital H. Please allow the dog to elaborate.

While Mary Cyr brought a number of qualities to the table as an executive director, she could sadly never overcome the personality differences and petty sniping usually advanced by one or two stodgy neighborhood associations who, for whatever reason, didn’t want to play ball with the rest of the community at-large.
Try as she might, that was a mountain that she could never conquer.

To her credit, however, she undertook the organization of a community forum in January of 2018 and partnered in a hugely successful Mayoral Candidates Forum in January of 2019 at Northeast High School.

She organized monthly neighborhood leadership meetings to improve communications between neighborhoods and city government. As a former NA Prez, these are exactly the kind of boring, eraser-chewing meetings that need to take place to ensure everyone is on the same page moving forward.

You can say what you want about Mattie Rhodes and John Fierro’s leadership of that organization, but this Dog is here to tell you one thing. In the non-profit world, funding is often tied to turf and performance.

Those critical of Mattie Rhodes and their expansion into HNE and the development of NEAT as a Community Development Corporation need to maybe take a step back and give credit where it’s due because nobody else stuck their neck out to re-establish a CDC in Northeast after the bankruptcy of Old Northeast Inc. back in 2010.
It’s been a long (and often arduous) process, but the timing of this announcement couldn’t be better.

Scott Wagner could have chosen a variety of gigs that probably paid two or three times the amount of scratch Mattie Rhodes is throwin’ his way. Instead, he chose to come back to the neighborhood and the community he lived in and led ten years ago, prior to his run for the First District At-Large Council Seat.

Given his eight years of experience navigating the labyrinth of convoluted and confusing policies and processes at City Hall, this appointment should do well for the Historic Northeast community in terms of fast-tracking projects that have long been stalled, or making sure the community isn’t cut out of an important decision such as the hastily concocted Paseo name change debacle.

The Dog hopes that this appointment will go far in terms of building consensus across neighborhood and organizational boundaries for the overall betterment of the Historic Northeast community at-large.

Anyone with any doubts as to the positive trajectory of the Historic Northeast community needs to check that attitude at the door and get on board.
Welcome back to the neighborhood, Scott. Let’s get the team assembled and keep this train rollin’!

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