Lee’s Summit Mayor Bill Baird has selected Rod Handley as the 2018 Citizen of the Year for his years of service and commitment to the community teaching the importance of character, integrity and accountability. He will be honored at the Missouri Municipal League’s Civic Leadership Banquet as well as during the Truman Heartland Community Foundation’s Annual Citizen’s Reception in August and their “Toast to Our Towns” Gala in September.
“It is a privilege to recognize Rod with the Citizen of the Year award. I have great admiration for his work and I’ve seen firsthand the broad impact he has on the youth in our community as well as the adults. Good character is imperative for a thriving community and I’m thankful our city has someone like Rod who enriches the lives of so many by providing the character-building tools essential to a fulfilling life,” said Mayor Baird. “The life principals Rod teaches – character, integrity and accountability – provide the foundation necessary for strong families, resilient youth and a culture of good character in our community.”
Handley served as senior vice president and chief operating officer/chief financial officer for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) until his departure in May 2000 to form Character That Counts, a nonprofit committed to communicating, serving and training others on character and accountability topics. He is also co-founder of Teaching Guys Infinite Wisdom (TGIW) which began in Lee’s Summit eighteen years ago as a men’s bible study and has expanded to cities nationwide. As a popular speaker, Handley averages 250 speaking engagements annually to audiences across the U.S. and has published over 25 books including, Character Counts – Who’s Counting Yours?
Handley holds the unique position of character coach for the Lee’s Summit North and Lee’s Summit West high school football teams as well as three high schools in Independence. He is a well-known fixture on the sideline of every football game providing support to players as needed. His priority is motivating and guiding the young athletes, teaching them how to conduct themselves with character and integrity. During the season, he provides a weekly character message for the team centered on a specific character trait selected by the coach. For some of the players without an active father in their life, Handley has become a father figure and is still involved in the lives of many former players.
Handley’s faith is the cornerstone of his work. As an ordained minister, he has served as chaplain for several collegiate and professional sports team including the Kansas City Royals. Handley volunteers countless hours with his church, Abundant Life. Recently, he was part of a team of over 300 volunteers who donated 6,000 hours working cleanup at the conclusion of Downtown Days.
In 2016, Handley was blindsided when doctors found a stage four neuroendocrine tumor during a visit for an unrelated health issue. This type of tumor is often referred to as “dead man walking cancer,” because for many, there are no signs or symptoms until it is too late. His doctors acted quickly and during surgery removed a total of eight tumors. The experience has given Handley an additional perspective and he shares his cancer journey with others to give them hope.
Handley was instrumental in developing the character initiative in Lee’s Summit. As part of the group that brought the Community of Character program to Lee’s Summit, he helped organize the first Mayor’s Character Breakfast in 2004 and served as the keynote speaker.
Handley is most passionate about his family. He’s been married to his wife Janna for 26 years and together they have four children; Brook, Derek, Jake and Trent. All are involved in giving back to their communities and are living their lives based on the life principles their father teaches.
The prestigious Citizen of the Year award recognizes exceptional citizens whose work and service to the community has significantly enhanced the quality of life for citizens of Lee’s Summit. The City has been recognizing its outstanding citizens since 1996.