Kenny Francis

Eight years ago, Gardner’s flags flew at half mast for 25 days, and the council held a ceremony honoring Kenneth Francis, former chief of the Gardner Department of Public Safety. Francis passed away Sept. 14, 2012.
The council passed a resolution in 2012 establishing Sept. 14 as Kenneth Francis day, in honor of his 25 years of service to the community. the resolution said, “as a further mark of respect, the row of flags on Main Street will be flown for 25 days, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 to honor the Chief’s 25 years of service to the city of Gardner and hereafter the 14th day of September shall be honored as Kenneth A. Francis Memorial Day in the city of Gardner.”
Francis’ legacy is still recalled.
Former mayor Carol Lehman said she has fond memories.
“The first thing I do when I think of Kenny is smile, because he had a smile for everyone he met,” Lehman said. The chief made time for each person who had a concern, a problem or a complaint. He made everyone feel important.
“Knowing Gardner would grow and change, the chief professionalized the department and built a strong foundation for the future,” Lehman continued.   The safety of Gardner citizens was number one with the chief, and he hired only the best to carry out that goal. “Kenny’s network included citizens from all over town and each person felt they were his special friend – I think that is why he always knew what was going on,” she said.  “The chief was known and respected throughout the KC metropolitan area, and he had a wide variety of contacts to call upon when needed. Kenny was the right person for the job at the right moment. He embraced Gardner, and Gardner embraced him. He was a chief of the people.”
Dave Drovetta, former mayor, said, “Chief Francis came to Gardner and created a great department that served our community for many years Many citizens had no idea that our Public Safety department was a single entity and did not have separate police and fire. His leadership and the dedication of his team provided seamless service that always gained high marks from the citizens. Ken was also someone who I could confide in and rely upon for advice and counsel.”
Jay Belcher, current police chief, got his start under Francis. “I’m so thankful for Chief Francis giving me my first opportunity in law enforcement here in Gardner,” Belcher said. “During my years here, I learned about law enforcement and life lessons from Chief Francis, and I will be ever grateful to him. He dedicated his life to law enforcement and especially to the City of Gardner. The City of Gardner is a better place because of Chief Francis.”
“You could always go to Kenny with questions,” said Shirley Brown Van Arsdale, former school board member and owner Bruce Funeral Home. “He always found the answers. And he loved Gardner.”
Francis was well respected by law enforcement peers ranging from municipal police departments to the FBI.
He was regarded as an authority on the public safety model of law enforcement, combining police and fire services.
He served on several law enforcement boards and committees over the course of his career.
Francis was past president of the Johnson County Police Chiefs, past president of the FBI National Academy Associates, past president of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association and past president of the Metropolitan Police Chiefs and Sheriff’s Associations.
Francis received the prestigious Clarence M. Kelly Award in 2002. That award is presented to criminal justice executives in the Kansas City metro area who demonstrate a proactive  approach and dedication to improving the criminal justice system.