The November re-election campaign of Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach just got an extra shot of adrenaline — as if it needed it. A national study was released in which Overland Park was named the best place in the entire nation to raise a family.
Wow. Most of us knew that Overland Park, the largest city in Johnson County and the second largest population in the metropolitan area, was a special place. But No. 1 out of 150 of its peers cities? That’s incredible.
That’s not good news, politically speaking, for Charlotte O’Hara, who will be facing off against Gerlach. How would you to like to run against the mayor of the best major city anywhere in the U.S.? It’s going to be very challenging to punch holes in Gerlach’s two decades of stellar leadership, which also include 10 years on the City Council.
O’Hara has her work cut out for her. Her only rallying cry, so far, is that Overland Park gives away too many incentives for economic development, which hurts the taxpayers. Gerlach will have to answer those charges in his campaign.
Gerlach isn’t taking anything for granted in his first race with opposition since he won the seat in 2005. He is out raising money for his campaign, which he will run vigorously. His greatest fear is the big upset, which can surprise even the best candidates if they are overly confident.
But back to the plaudits Gerlach can run on.
There is still plenty of time to write about this campaign. But the report on Overland Park’s national stature deserves more coverage than it has received.
Each city was ranked in four categories in the WalletHub analysis. The study considered the total scores for family fun, health and safety, education and child care, as well as affordability. Overland Park’s total major score was 74.46, just ahead of Madison, Wisconsin.
Right behind those cities were: Plano, Texas; Seattle; and Fremont, California.
Of course, Overland Park did not rank the highest in every category. It was a cumulative score. However, it is notable that Overland Park ranked first in the nation in affordability. I can vouch for that, especially when I visit our son’s family in Berkeley, California and see firsthand the houses that go for $1 million dollars, which would sell here for maybe one-third the price.
Overland Park ranked fifth in the nation for health and safety. For education and child care, it ranked 22nd.
Overland Park struggled in the category of family fun, ranking a less-than-impressive 103rd. Los Angeles finished first. Chicago was second, and New York was third.
Gerlach said he recognizes the city needs to consider more entertainment ideas, and a visioning committee will look at future possibilities when it first meets next year.
Gerlach would be the first to point out that he cannot take sole credit for the top rank. It took decades to achieve this overall excellence.
The report concentrated on only one aspect of quality of life: raising a family. Had the study delved into such things as finances, it would have found a rare Triple-A bond rating and the lowest mill levy in the state of Kansas.
Other cities in Johnson County would probably score at the top nationally among their peers of smaller municipalities. And Johnson County would undoubtedly come out on top in a comparison of counties with populations of, say, 500,000 or more. There are other suburban communities right here in the metro that would score high as well.
But today, Overland Park and Carl Gerlach should bask in the glory of the top ranking in America.