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Friday, Mar. 01, 2013

Olathe Parks and Rec director to step down

The Kansas City Star

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There are more parks. There are more trails. Soon, Olathe will have its first community center. And now a key player on the work is preparing to pass the baton.

On March 15, Kevin Corbett is retiring from his position as Olathe’s director of Parks and Recreation after more than 20 years in the department.

“It seemed like the best time to let the next generation take over,” Corbett said. “Looking down the road, we have the community center opening next year, we’re getting ready for a new parks and recreation master plan, and there might be an updated park sales tax up for vote in 2014. For me to do all of it and then just walk away didn’t make sense.”

It was perfect timing in his personal life as well.

His wife, Mary, a special education teacher, is retiring in May after 30 years of service. The two are also celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in June. They plan to take the next year off to travel, volunteer at their church, and immerse themselves in their mutual passion for playing bluegrass music.

But retirement won’t be all fun and games for Corbett. He plans to jump into various projects and maybe even do some consulting work.

“Even though I’m retiring from this job, I still want to keep productive,” he said. “I can’t imagine being one of those guys who sits around playing golf all day. Public service is the core of who I am, and I hope to find a balance between still being active in the community and finding time for myself.”

The Leawood resident also plans to remain active in the Olathe community.

After all, it has been a major part of his life for the past 21 years, since he first arrived as the new parks superintendent. Five years ago, he gained the directorship.

“What I think about most is how much this city has changed since I walked in the door for the first time,” said Corbett. “It’s been an amazing run.”

In 1996, he helped create the city’s first parks and recreation master plan, which generated the first parks sales tax in 1999.

With the funds, the city was able to upgrade swimming pools, build trails, and create the massive Lone Elm Park, which boasts soccer fields and campgrounds.

In 2004, he helped update the parks and recreation master plan and saw the 10-year park sales tax pass once more.

Since then, he’s also been helping to bring the city’s first community center to life with an opening expected by summer 2014.

Another of his favorite accomplishments is implementing free summer concerts 14 years ago.

When it first began, the concerts consisted of an orchestra playing on a wooded stage for around 100 people. Now, they feature Grammy-winning artists playing for crowds of thousands.

Corbett doesn’t sees each project as the result of phenomenal team work.

“I wish I could lift the curtain and show the community what’s happening behind the scenes in Olathe,” he said. “Everyone — our council and city staff — is so innovative, hard-working, and passionate. These people really care about what they do, and that makes it very hard to walk away.”

His sentiment is reciprocated.

“He has such great passion for public service and has improved the lives of people who live in Olathe,” said Assistant City Manager Susan Sherman, who has worked with Corbett for more than 20 years. “He’s really left a legacy and made a lot of friends here. He’s a great guy and we’re really going to miss him.”

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