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"Well, what do people want in Budd Park?" they asked Wagner.
He was stumped. And that's how the Budd Park Committee was born.
Wagner knows that good communication is crucial for getting anything done, and as the head of public relations at Fasone & Partners, he's particularly skilled at it.
"My belief is that they [parks staff] really want help from the community regarding how to apply the very limited resources they have," Wagner says. "Every time we've engaged with them creatively and constructively, we've had that reciprocated." Since the neighborhood residents have started actively discussing their park's future, Wagner says he has seen use of Budd Park go up.
Wagner also realizes that public works require money. "We're not trustee kids by any stretch," he says of himself and his neighbors. "We're not writing the checks."
That's where connections come in. Wagner is the vice president of the Northeast Chamber of Commerce, and he knows that public and private partnerships are what make things like community centers appear. For example, he makes reference to a new community center in Gladstone with impressive aquatic features, which was built with contributions from the City of Gladstone and the North Kansas City School District.
Most people don't have time to meet with Parks and Recreation staff to discuss weed problems or broken swings, nor do they have the connections to scare up corporate sponsorships. Wagner doesn't mind being that guy.
"Not everyone understands how the system works," Wagner explains, "But we can help [Parks and Recreation] do more with less."
One day last summer, a few families who were headed to Budd Park's pool were stopped short by locked gates and an empty basin. No notice explained the pool's sudden closure. Instead of calling the city, they called Wagner. He found out that an unruly pH reading in the water called for the pool to be drained and refilled — a temporary closure and good news for Wagner to give his constituents.
"Not to say we get everything we want," he says, "but when we don't, we get answers as to why."
So the key to getting what you want from your parks is by asking for it. If that fails, get to know your neighbors — they might be good at PR.
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