Lawyer’s art is community building

EDC StaffUncategorized

Lee’s Summit Journal – RUSS PULLEY

Several candidates come to mind for Lee’s Summit Journal “Newsmaker of the Year.” One stands out because of her volunteer and professional service in many significant events in 2013.

Christine Bushyhead led a city task force planning cultural arts facilities. She was part of a core group creating design standards for downtown Lee’s Summit.

Then as a lawyer, she represented Craig Grider, an orthodontist who was seeking approval of the first project under those standards. Also in her role as a development lawyer, she helped Wal-Mart win approval of a site for a new Supercenter in south Lee’s Summit.

She was a co-chair of “Foundations for Our Future” in April, leading a campaign asking voters to approve bonds to finance a downtown performance space, renovating the WPA post office for a museum, an amphitheater in Legacy Park and road improvements.

She is working with Flip Short on the Happy Valley development and Family Ranch (a project to reclaim a mined area) along Interstate 470, and the Park Place apartments proposed for downtown Lee’s Summit.

“She’s fantastic, gifted and amazing at all she’s involved with,” said Bill Brown, who serves with her on the executive board of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council.

Brown said if Bushyhead has a fault, it’s that she has confident, heart-felt opinions, but he sees that as a plus.

“I love passion, and that’s what you get with Christine, regardless of what you’re working on,” Brown said.

Brown and others said Bushyhead has a great love of community, balancing her many activities as mother, wife and businessperson.

Trisha Drape, executive director of Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, said Bushyhead is “super smart.”

Drape said Bushyhead, who is the DLSMS board secretary, was integral in getting the downtown design standards included in the city’s Unified Development Ordinance. Many cities have guidelines, but not many towns have strong mandatory rules, she said.

She said Lee’s Summit has been fortunate to have Bushyhead serving in so many capacities, from economic development, to cultural arts to grass-roots campaigns.

“She brings out the best in any group,” Drape said.

Bushyhead said she’s like any volunteer, she uses her talents. With 20 years of accumulated knowledge in Lee’s Summit, it helps her be effective for her clients and a community volunteer.

She said she sees her role as community building, working on projects she believes will contribute to the overall good.

“I get quickly frustrated by takers, people who ask what’s in it for me or how will it make me look good, not looking at the bigger picture,” Bushyhead said.

She lives in a downtown neighborhood with her husband Bob Bushyhead and their son Parker.

“Coming from a small town originally, I see Lee’s Summit is so special, it has the small-town downtown but it’s 10 minutes away from the big city,” Bushyhead said.

Earlier this year she received the 2013 Truman Heartland Community Foundation Citizen of the Year and Missouri Municipal League Civic Leadership awards.

In the past, Bushyhead served as Lee’s Summit City Attorney from 1993 to 1999, after going into private practice, she was elected to the City Council an served until 2006.

Bushyhead said that as corny as it sounds, as a sixth grader she decided she wanted to be president. In her mind she worked out that most politicians were lawyers so she’d study law. During law school, she said, she encountered peers, some who wanted to make money, others who wanted to help people.

“I really wanted to help people, that’s what I envisioned, problem solving,” Bushyhead said.

Growing up in Hannibal, she said her parents set an example for her family that led to her attitudes as an adult.

“At ice cream socials we were the family was always helping to set up the tables,” she said. Her father was on the planning commission.

At UMKC, she said she got an award from the vice-chancellor for her participation in school activities.

“It’s just always what I did,” Bushyhead said.

She said that after law school she wasn’t quite sure what sort of practice she wanted, but applied for a city attorney position in Gladstone. She said she found her passion there.

In time, though, as a city lawyer she learned that while she could render legal advice, which the elected officials might or might not accept it. Moving to the private sector allowed her to become more of an advocate.

Much of her private practice had been the White Goss firm that specialized in development. After she accomplished what she felt she could do there, she said, she moved on to Mitchell Kristle & Lieber in March of 2011, where she’s CEO.

Her new role gave her flexibility to choose her clients and to be involved in Lee’s Summit community issues.

“I feel free to spend my volunteer time doing things for the community,” Bushyhead said. “I would have been making more money if I stayed where I was. I wouldn’t have been as fulfilled and happy.”