Former Mayor Joe Reardon Gets a Fresh Start

Why Joe Reardon returned to practicing law after serving eight years as mayor of Kansas City, Kan.

Story by Kathryn Jones.

After serving as mayor of Kansas City, Kan., and CEO of the Unified Government (UG) of Wyandotte County from 2005 to 2013, former mayor Joe Reardon resumed his career as an attorney. In June, he rejoined McAnany, Van Cleave & Phillips (MVP), one of the oldest and largest law firms in Kansas City. Reardon recently spoke with KC Business about his decision to leave politics, his accomplishments as mayor and what exactly his new role at MVP will entail.

KCB: You worked for MVP before you were mayor. How long were you there?

Reardon: I was here from my graduation from law school in the spring of 1994 to approximately 2000 when I took at position with Westlaw, now owned by Thomson/Reuters.

KCB: Why did you decide to leave politics?

Former Mayor Joe Reardon: After eight years of serving as mayor and, quite frankly, loving every minute of it, I felt it was time to spend some more time with my family. My oldest is an eighth grader this year, and I knew if I ran for a third term, he’d be about ready to go to college by the time I was done. I’m always going to work hard here at the firm, but as far as the weekends go, I’ll have a bit more flexibility to spend time with my family in this role more so than I did as mayor.

Former Mayor Joe Reardon at the Google Fiber offices in Kansas City. Photo by Paul Andrews.

KCB: Why did you choose to return to MVP as opposed to working for another law firm?

Reardon: The firm has been in Kansas City for over 100 years and has a longstanding role in the civic and business community. It is a perfect fit for me as I will continue my community involvement and stay active in the Kansas City region.

KCB: What will be your key areas of focus at MVP?

Reardon: I’ll be working to assist and expand the firm’s practice in real estate/economic development, public policy and technology/entrepreneurial law. I also joined the firm’s well-established labor and employment practice.

Through my new law practice and work with MVP, I look forward to helping our region, and other communities across the country, identify and initiate innovative approaches to development, governmental-private sector cooperation and support for entrepreneurialism, innovation and small business creation

KCB: How might your political experience enable you to thrive in these focus areas?

Reardon: I have experienced firsthand the power of good policy making and how it can help positively shape a community. My eight years of service as mayor/CEO gives me the kind of experience that can help individuals and groups navigate government to help shape policy to better communities, whether in economic development or improving health conditions, for instance.

KCB: What do you think were some of your greatest accomplishments as mayor?

Reardon: During my tenure, the UG was able to successfully advance both large and small development projects that spanned the spectrum from urban grocery stores to the world-class Sporting Park soccer stadium and Cerner office project. It was a unique experience as I was not just involved with the technical terms of development agreements and land use, but also with forming public-private partnerships that are good for business and benefit communities.

I am also proud of my work in bringing Google Fiber to Kansas City and in helping rally community and entrepreneurial support for the project. We created a unique approach to funding and developing an ultra-high-speed fiber to the home network in a public-private partnership with Google. As the project builds out here in Kansas City and expands to other places, my hope is to be able to help other communities, businesses and nonprofits find the same model for success that we were able to create here in Kansas City, Kan.

KCB: Do you feel your legal experience played a role in these successes?

Reardon: My background as a lawyer helped me navigate through a lot of the things that I had worked on as mayor, whether it was knowing how to bring people together in a forum consensus or understanding how a public-private partnership technically ought to be put together in terms of what the risks were and what the rewards would be.

KCB: Your father, Jack Reardon, was mayor of Kansas City, Kan., from 1975 until 1987. What’s the most important thing he taught you about being in politics?

Reardon: I don’t know if I can point to one thing. I did find that my experience in politics growing up was of great benefit to me as mayor. In our family, we talked about government and politics, and we all campaigned together. It was part of daily life in the Reardon house.

I would say, fundamentally, my dad taught me to be true to myself and my beliefs – also to hold fast to fairness in the way we treat one another [and to be] passionate about the community we serve. That is the way he carried out his service, and I hope I was able to live up to that during my tenure as mayor.

KCB: Do you have any words of advice for new mayor Mark Holland?

Reardon: I wouldn’t call it advice, but I do think Mark is going to do a great job as mayor. He is connected to the community. He understands our community’s need to be a part of the greater region in order to be successful. I think he’s carried those skills with him so far and will continue to move the community forward.

KCB: Last, but not least, what do you miss most about being in politics?

Reardon: Really, I mostly miss the people, both those I worked with at the UG and the thousands of people I had the privilege to serve as mayor. I learned over my tenure that relationships fundamentally matter to accomplishing great things. I formed so many great relationships during that time, and I hope they all remain strong as I change careers.