August 5, 2023

By Phil Hanson
President and CEO, Truman Heartland Community Foundation

Every year, Truman Heartland Community Foundation invites local Mayors to nominate a member of their community to be recognized as their city’s Citizen of the Year. The chosen citizens are selected based on their volunteer work, contributions to their city’s economic or financial development, leadership in business, and efforts toward promoting a more positive and inclusive community for all.

The 2023 Citizens of the Year have demonstrated outstanding excellence in one or more of these areas of civic engagement, and, as you will see in their stories below, they have been active in their communities for many years. They strive to make their community a better place because that’s what people should do. Not a single awardee has been seeking this kind of recognition, which is why it is our privilege to recognize their achievements at our Toast of Our Towns Gala, on Saturday, September 23, at the Sheraton Hotel at Crown Center. We are pleased that Blue Ridge Bank and Trust will again be our presenting sponsor for the event festivities, helping us make this a memorable evening for all our honorees.

Blue Springs Citizen of the Year – Russell Clark
Russell was the owner and president of Big Picture Signs n’ Mor before moving on to and retiring from Golden Years Construction and Remodeling in 2008. Russell represented District 2 as an Alderman on the Blue Springs City Council for several years and was a Commissioner of the Blue Springs Charter Commission in 1993. Beyond his city government service, Russell contributed to his community by instructing adult education courses in various art forms at Blue Springs High School for several years. Russell was involved in a number of organizations, including the Son’s of the American Legion for nearly 50 years, serving as Cub Master of Pack 763, and acting as chairman of the Fall Fun Fest for many years. Additionally, he was President of the Blue Springs Kiwanis Club for six years and currently serves as the program manager for guest speakers. Russell truly embodies the spirit of community service.

Grain Valley Citizen of the Year – Marty Napier
Marty holds the Grain Valley Historical Society close to her heart. She volunteers every Wednesday to ensure that the building is open to the public and that they can view all the amazing historical artifacts. Marty also writes a column for the Grain Valley News, sharing stories about families who have shaped the history of the community. She is truly the Grain Valley historian. Additionally, Marty serves as a board member for the Grain Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Grain Valley Board and advises the counseling office at the Grain Valley School District. She also served for six years on the Truman Heartland Community Foundation Blue Springs/Grain Valley Advisory Board, serving as chair for a year. Her passion and dedication will play a vital role in the rejuvenation of Main Street as she advocates for local businesses and fosters community spirit, which has already helped Grain Valley prosper.

Grandview Citizen of the Year – Ben Teevan
Ben is a member of America’s Greatest Generation, having served in the Navy aboard the USS Alabama from 1943 to 1946. He and his wife, Betty, raised their three children in Grandview, and they all graduated from Grandview High School. Ben is highly dedicated to maintaining his yard and still cares for it by himself. He has proudly received Grandview’s coveted “Yard of the Month” award not once but twice. His unwavering resilience, personal fortitude, and utterly beautiful yard have earned him the respect and admiration of the whole community.

Independence Citizen of the Year – Bob Spradling
Bob spent 50 years as the pastor of Maywood Baptist Church, helping people find their church home. He was an active member of the Personnel Committee for the city of Independence and played an active role in the school boundary change. Bob is an advocate for addiction recovery and supports organizations like Northwest Community Development Corporation, Twelve Blocks West, and the Independence Police Charitable Foundation. His civic leadership has earned him numerous awards, including the Key to the City of DeRidder, Louisiana, the THCF Citizen of the Year for his work with the school transition team, and the Civic Leadership Award from the Westgate Division of the Missouri League. Today, he continues to make a difference with his friend Rudy Ross by sharing daily YouTube videos on a variety of topics with warmth and humor.

Lake Lotawana & Lee’s Summit Citizen of the Year – Carl Chinnery
Carl has an impressive history of serving various organizations in leadership roles. He was the Chairman of the Truman Medical Center Planned Giving Council, as well as the Children’s Mercy Hospital Planned Giving Council. He served as Secretary for the Powell Gardens Board and held the position of District Governor of Rotary International from 2002 to 2003. He served as the President of the Lee’s Summit Chamber in 1978 and the President of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council in 1996-1997. In addition, he was a past Chairman at Rockhurst College Small Business Development Corporation. Carl has also been the President of the Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education and the President of the Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation. His strong entrepreneurial spirit continues to drive him to help his community, even in “retirement.”

Oak Grove Citizen of the Year – Becky & Randy Messer
Becky and Randy are unmistakable figures in their Oak Grove community. For nearly 30 years, Becky was a teacher in the Oak Grove School District and was named Teacher of the Year for 2021-2022. She has dedicated countless hours to empowering students and volunteers as both a coach and teacher for the Parks and Recreation department. Randy, a retired Pastor of First Baptist Church, Oak Grove, has served the people of Oak Grove for more than 30 years. He was recently named Oak Grove Chamber Citizen of the Year and has volunteered for numerous local events and committees. Together, they are a dynamic couple who consistently go above and beyond for others, and their generous spirit has made a profound impact on the lives of so many.

Raytown Citizen of the Year – Martha Cockrell
In 2009, Martha retired from her position as Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources at Raytown Quality Schools. However, she returned four years later as the Executive Director of Raytown Educational Foundation. Martha has been instrumental in expanding the foundation, which now has more than $1 million in funds that are used to support and enhance Raytown schools. She is an active member of several organizations, including the Raytown Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Raytown Kiwanis Club, and Truman Heartland Community Foundation, where she held a wide variety of leadership roles, including board chair in 2014. Martha is a dedicated educator who believes in giving back to the community she loves.

Sugar Creek Citizen of the Year – Patrick Casey
Patrick has a strong commitment to serving his community. He was born and raised in Sugar Creek and graduated from St. Mary’s High School. Patrick has dedicated much of his time to serving his community as a volunteer firefighter, then as Deputy Fire Chief, and finally as Fire Chief. He has been a vital member of the Sugar Creek City Council and an effective and efficient City Administrator. Additionally, Patrick helps organize the Red Bag Day event each year, which collects gifts for local children in need. He also participates in an annual fundraiser to support people impacted by Down Syndrome. Patrick’s heart is full of compassion, and he has made a significant positive impact on the entire Sugar Creek community.

A few weeks before the Gala, there will be a Citizens Reception where all nine local mayors will talk about the contributions of their citizens to their community. This is a private event sponsored by Centerpoint Medical Center, and we thank Drs. Nancy Newhouse and Paul McGraw for hosting the reception at their home in Lee’s Summit.

If you see any of these incredible individuals around town, please take a moment and show your appreciation for all they do in their local communities. Thanks to their hard work, the suburban Eastern Jackson County areas are better places to live, work, and serve. Please join us at our Toast to Our Towns Gala on September 23rd to help us celebrate all the people who make our communities great!