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From Super Bowl Parade to a City Sequestered:

Mayor Lucas Leads KC through a Whirlwind First Year

When the legacy of Mayor Quinton Lucas is chronicled, how he and his team led a half million residents through their first worldwide pandemic will go down in history. 

Whether Mayor Lucas is urging constituents to show up or shut down, he is always ready to lead, ready to listen and ready to remedy. As KC’s 55th mayor, Mayor Lucas has only been in office since August 1, but the city feels his presence in a way we didn’t anticipate. His tenure has endured the force of unforeseen events that go way beyond filling potholes and offering free bus fare. 

“Everybody who runs for office has this 100-day plan, and you realize how quickly that won’t be occurring,” Mayor Lucas says with a laugh. “From Day 1, this year has been historic. From our city’s first Super Bowl in half a century to a global pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a full century, these are the kinds of events you could never anticipate.” 

What has been even more remarkable to Mayor Lucas is how great Kansas Citians have reacted throughout it. “Whether they’re showing up for a parade when it’s 27 degrees outside, or it’s a global pandemic, and we all have to stay inside for weeks; frankly, I’ve been touched by how Kansas City has responded.”

It’s not because we’re the best rule-followers either, he adds. It’s because of the core goodness that makes us team players.

“It’s who we are as people and who we are in our human nature,” Mayor Lucas says. “Kansas City received the message that even if you’re a healthy person, even if you’re someone who thinks they can bounce back, the worry is for so many others in our community, like the immune-compromised, the elderly and the vulnerable. It’s amazing to see how quickly our people adapted to changing the way we lived.”

Mayor Lucas is no stranger to adapting. His well-documented background prepared him for this moment. Often homeless in east Kansas City with his single mother and sisters, he learned to negotiate the extremes in his life. Those skills would empower him years later to represent all segments of the city he leads. 

“In my life story, I talk about the diverse set of experiences and influences I had. I still remember when I was in 6th or 7th grade, and we were homeless. I was living in a one-room motel with my sisters and my mother in east Kansas City. I was a homeless kid who was going to The Barstow School on scholarship. That taught me a heck of a lot about adversity and how to adapt. You realize what your goal is each day. You certainly recognize it’s not easy, but you know that no matter the challenge, you’ll get through it. That was a big part of my ability to handle any number of life’s challenges. And this pandemic has been a significant one, too.”

Nicknamed “the little professor” as a child, Mayor Lucas would grow up to become one. After earning degrees from Washington University and Cornell Law School, he joined the University of Kansas faculty at age 28, making him one of the youngest tenure-track law professors in the country. His work on the city council and volunteerism in prisons and schools continues to drive his decisions today. His intelligence, positive energy, competence and likeability all contributed to Lucas besting 10 opponents last year to succeed Sly James as KC’s new mayor.

Today, from his view on the 29th floor of city hall or from his apartment in the historic jazz district of 18th and Vine, Mayor Lucas has scaled high but reaches deep. His heart aches for the East side and the urban core where he wants to effect real and lasting changes in education, housing, infrastructure, crime prevention and other initiatives. From his windows, he often watches his beloved KC sunsets descend over storms. They’re images of hope that tomorrow will hold brighter days for districts slammed by vicious statistics, especially his hometown 3rd District where the virus has hit unusually hard. 

In the past several weeks, Mayor Lucas says he has probably spent more time with area leaders than in all his past years on city council.

“The collaboration across jurisdictions from Lee’s Summit, Johnson County, Wyandotte County, and others has made me incredibly proud and excited for what that means, not only for fighting this issue now, but for what we can accomplish in the future.”

Mayor Lucas says that what really sets KC apart is how giving we are. Whether through structured philanthropy or just one-to-one generosity, such as delivering food to elderly neighbors, our people are willing to help each other out. 

Mayor Lucas adds that he has no doubts KC will do all it can to help its neighbors and small businesses during the next phases of economic recovery. 

“I know KC will do it,” he says, “because we are a resilient city. During the influenza outbreak of 1918, Kansas City was a big city then, and we got through that, and we will get through this one, too. So my message to all Kansas Citians is keep up that spirit.”