OLATHE, Kan. — Olathe is remembering its longest serving mayor Thursday after 58-year-old Michael Copeland died Wednesday night.
Voters first elected Copeland to the Olathe City Council in 1993. He was later voted mayor in 2001 and has held the seat ever since.
Copeland led the city through dramatic change and growth.
“I don’t know that there are adequate words,” said David Sharpes, a friend and pastor of College Church of the Nazarene. “He was not only a great man, but a great mayor because that’s the kind of heart he had.”
Copeland left a mark on Olathe, dedicating 27 years of service and nearly 20 as mayor, the longest in city history.
Sharpes said Copeland was a friend to all and as genuine as they come.
“His life example is so clear: a person of integrity, vulnerability and sincerity that way,” Sharpes said.
Under Copeland’s leadership, Olathe grew by nearly 50,000 people, added 18 parks and 29 miles of trails.
His positive spirit stretched across the metro serving on several Kansas City boards and commissions. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas took notice.
“He served the people of Olathe well, but frankly he served the people of this metro — Kansas and Missouri — so well,” Lucas said. “It’s a tough time already, but I was very sad to see that news.”
Many people told FOX4 that Copeland represented the best in leadership at City Hall and across the community.
He was passionate about helping the homeless and teaching students how to read, which Olathe Public Schools Superintendent John Allison noted.
“His fingerprints are on almost everything in Olathe,” Allison said. “It makes it such a unique community, so he will be sorely missed, that’s for sure.”
The mayor was a man who was quick to point out other peoples accomplishments though he had a lot of his own.
Sharpes said Copeland would want citizens to smile on and be that positive influence in your community.
Copeland is survived by his wife and three children. A cause of death has not been released.
With the loss of Copeland, Councilman John Bacon now serves as mayor. He has been on the Olathe City Council for nine years.