Mayor Sly James was sworn in as the 56th Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri on March 22, 2011. Since taking office, he has focused his efforts towards making Kansas City best in four key areas: Education, Employment, Efficiency, and Enforcement. This ‘4 E agenda’ is the driving force behind all of Mayor James’ major policy decisions.
Mayor James’ first major accomplishment upon taking office was the creation of Turn the Page KC (TTPKC), now an independently operating 501c3 organization, dedicated to mobilizing the community to achieve reading proficiency at grade level or above for all 3rd graders in Kansas City, Missouri. To further prioritize his commitment to education in Kansas City, Mayor James hired the City’s first education advisor in December 2013, Julie Holland. Since that time, Mayor James has convened a number of community stakeholder meetings focused on elevating and discussing issues such as the 30 million word gap, school attendance, and student mobility. In recognition of his work to enhance educational opportunities in Kansas City, Mayor James has been invited to the White House to participate in discussions with President Obama on how cities can continue moving forward on education. In his first term, Mayor James visited a total of 90 different classrooms across the city, reading and interacting with our City’s most valuable resource: our students. Mayor James also serves on the US Conference of Mayor’s Education Task Force.
Mayor James continues to focus on growing a prosperous and agile economy, retaining and building local talent while simultaneously attracting new talent from across the country. Launch KC, a critical component of Mayor James’ economic development plan, continues to make progress and receive attention in both the local and national tech space. Additionally, after years of disinvestment, Mayor James has worked tirelessly during his time in office to revitalize the City’s neighborhoods East of Troost, including supporting the Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy. In 2011, he appointed the Mayor’s Task Force for the Arts to capitalize on major investments in the arts and to examine the public’s role in arts and culture. During that same year, Mayor James worked alongside then-Kansas City, Kansas Mayor Joe Reardon to establish the Mayors’ Bistate Innovation Committee, to focus on how to best utilize the cutting-edge technology in Google Fiber.
Under the leadership of Mayor James, Kansas City continues to stake its claim as a hub of innovation in the heartland. KC Stat, a data-driven initiative focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of city services, is setting Kansas City apart as a city of technological advancement. During the Mayor’s tenure, Kansas City was selected as one of the first cities in the nation to participate in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ ‘What Works Cities’, a $42-million initiative to help communities nationwide enhance the use of data and evidence to improve the lives of residents. Kansas City was also named an IEEC Core Smart City and was selected as one of the first cities to pilot the Smart + Connected City framework, becoming the largest Smart City in North America.
Mayor James championed the construction of the 2.2 mile KC Streetcar in downtown Kansas City. In March of 2014, the Mayor unveiled his Women’s Empowerment (WE) initiative to help city government work better for the women who work with it and work for it.
The Mayor’s enforcement strategy centers primarily on the efforts of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA). KC NoVA is a collaboration between the Mayor’s Office, Kansas City Police Department, Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Missouri Board of Probation and Parole, ATF, FBI, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. This focused deterrence approach to crime reduction resulted in a 42-year-low of homicides in Kansas City in 2014. Mayor James is also a staunch support of Teens in Transition (TNT), KC NoVA’s teen violence prevention program. The goal of Teens in Transition is to provide a safe, stable, and healthy environment for participants to gain appropriate life skills and to reduce the barriers that lead to their personal success, while decreasing their risk of committing a violent act.
Mayor James has worked extensively to raise Kansas City’s statewide and national profile by highlighting the myriad of cultural and human capital resources in our great city. At the state level, he has been an advocate for commonsense gun control laws, establishing an armed offender docket, a sensible increase of the minimum wage, and adding more high quality seats in our classrooms. Mayor James currently serves in leadership positions in several national organizations including US Conference of Mayors, African American Mayors Association, National Democratic Mayors, and Urban Land Institute.
Mayor Sly James was born and raised in Kansas City on the city’s eastside. He graduated from Bishop Hogan High School in Kansas City in 1969. After serving his country as a military police officer in the Marines from 1971-1975 in California, the Philippines, and Japan during the Vietnam War, Mayor James graduated cum laude from Rockhurst College with a B.A. in English. He then went on to earn his law degree, also cum laude, from the University of Minnesota in 1983. Prior to his election, Mayor James enjoyed a successful legal career which spanned almost three decades. Over the years, Mayor James has served on numerous boards and commissions in leadership positions including The Missouri Board of Law Examiners, President of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association, Economic Development Corporation, Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, Jackson County Ethics Commission, Legal Aid of Kansas City, Jackson County Bar Association, Bishop Hogan High School Board, Genesis School Board, and The United Way. Mayor James has been married to Licia Clifton-James since 1981 and is the proud father of four children.
Mayor James was re-elected to a second term on June 23, 2015 with 87% of the vote.