By David Markham
As 2022 came to a close, JCPRD and Johnson County lost a friend and advocate.
Johnson County Board of Park and Recreation Commissioner Kevin Fern died on Dec. 11 at age 64. He had served on the board since March 2021 and was the long-time executive director of Visit Shawnee and former executive director of the Shawnee Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Fern was a lifelong Shawnee resident, and served as second district representative on the JCPRD Board.
Despite his relatively short time on the board, JCPRD officials who worked with Fern said he will be remembered and missed.
“He was a great promoter of our community and a model for community involvement,” said 2023 Board Chair Bob Carlson. “Kevin worked with (the city of) Shawnee to get some tax revenue to help fund improvements Mid-America Sports Complex and Mid-America West Sports Complex. He established a partnership with Shawnee to promote tournament use and bring people to our community.”
“Kevin cared deeply about the Johnson County community and the many services provided by JCPRD,” added Executive Director Jeff Stewart. “He very much supported and appreciated the professional staff and many volunteers that work together to serve the citizens and visitors we welcome every day. Kevin was always willing to step in to help where needed. His leadership and support will truly be missed by all.”
Stewart added that Fern had taken a strong interest in district parks and facilities.
“Kevin was very proud of JCPRD’s efforts and plans to care for existing parks and facilities,” he said. “He was also passionate about identifying additional resources to assist in these initiatives. This included participating in grant applications and engaging other officials. In particular, he was extremely proud of the renovation efforts that are underway at Mid-America Sports Complex. His professional role with Visit Shawnee exposed him to the economic impacts and appreciation of the many JCPRD parks and facilities that are offered to the citizens and visitors of the Johnson County community. The Johnson County community is better because of Kevin’s passion and many years of service. He had a special place in his heart for JCPRD and the many employees and volunteers that provide our services.”