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It's a Wonderful Life in Lee's Summit

with Mayor Bill Baird

In the heart of Lee’s Summit, Mayor Bill Baird leads not just with policies and ordinances but also draws on the wisdom of the classic holiday film, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” For Baird, the movie is more than seasonal nostalgia; he has woven the film’s essence into his personal and professional ethos.

The Frank Capra classic first captivated Baird at the age of fifteen. Bill says, “I was totally enamored with the multiverse concept. There are so many butterfly effect movies today, but I still think that ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is the best of all. There is a point in the movie where George Bailey (the main character played by Jimmy Stewart) gets to see what the world would be like without him. He gets to see the difference he made.”

George Bailey's revelation of the impact of his existence resonates deeply with Baird. "He cared about others so much more than he cared about himself," he notes, emphasizing the significance of the ripple effect and how each life intertwines, leaving an indelible mark when absent.

"I try to think in terms of George Bailey. I want to know that I am making life better for others," Baird affirms.

His self-described ‘obsession’ with the movie has become an integral part of the Baird family holiday traditions. Baird says he strategically introduced his children, now in their twenties, to the movie. “When they were young, I didn’t make them watch the movie. As they got older, I would encourage them to just watch certain parts—like I did as I grew up, not always catching it from the beginning. Now, they love the movie. They want to watch it every year.”

In the spirit of doing for others, it isn't a surprise that Bill embraces the tradition of gift giving during the holidays. Bill recalls an especially memorable hunt for the “perfect gift” for his brother Matt in the late 90s, which led to a bidding war with another user on Ebay. “I ran across a picture of Jimmy Stewart and Robert Kennedy. Matt is a history buff and Robert Kennedy is his favorite person, so I needed to get this picture. I was bidding, but someone kept outbidding me. I looked at the username, and even though it wasn’t his name, I somehow put it together and just knew it was Matt trying to buy the same picture as a gift for me. I withdrew from the bidding, and he gave me this great photo for Christmas. Since I thought it was coming, I wrote a letter to him explaining that I was the one he was bidding against. It was a really special moment.”

Bill also incorporates his love for gift giving with his appreciation for downtown Lee’s Summit. “Downtown is definitely a gem,” he says. “It is charming and historic, but it is also experiential.” He enjoys the moments spent there, engaging with the community and reveling in the unique shopping options. Bill and his wife Hillory often take the extra time to drive along Third Street to marvel at the decorated storefronts, festive greenery, and twinkling streetlights.

A highlight for Bill and his family is the lighting of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree in Howard Park each year to kick off the holiday season. In 2018, his first year as mayor, Bill invited Karolyn Grimes, better known as ZuZu from “It’s A Wonderful Life” to help flip the switch. It seems the connection to the movie is never far removed from Baird’s experiences.

The mayor’s favorite line from the movie is never spoken but is a quote hanging on George Bailey’s office wall, “All that you can take with you is that which you have given away.” Bill understands the inherent value of giving. Giving time, giving attention, giving joy, giving reverence.

As Lee’s Summit gears up for seasonal festivities and the promise of a new year, Mayor Baird will continue to share his passion for “It’s A Wonderful Life” with others. Inspired by a timeless film, he strives to steer the city toward a brighter, more connected future, echoing the sentiments of George Bailey - making life better for others.

Holiday Events in Lee’s Summit

  • Nov 22-Dec 31--36th Annual Christmas in the Park at Longview Lake

Sunday-Thursday 5:30 - 10:00 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 5:30 - 11:00 p.m.

  • December 9--Lee’s Summit Farmer’s Market Holiday Mart

10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Lee’s Summit City Hall

  • December 9—12ish Bars of Christmas (21 and older)

2:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.

Konrad’s Kitchen and Tap House

eventbrite.com for tickets

  • December 16—Photos with the Grinch

11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

The Stanley Event Space

eventbrite.com for tickets

  • December 16—Candy Cane Course

Race starts at 9:00 a.m.

Lee’s Summit City Hall

runsignup.com

  • December 16--Holiday Radio Show Lee’s Summit Symphony

3:00 p.m.

The Pavilion at John Knox Village

Lssymphony.org for tickets

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