Johnson County is getting more colorful, and Jim Terrones couldn’t be more pleased.
In his three decades of public service, the Olathe councilman has proudly represented his Hispanic roots by serving on various committees and boards dedicated to cultural diversity.
He has been a commissioner on the Kansas Hispanic & Latino American Affairs Commission, chairman of the Olathe Human Relations Commission and a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Racial Profiling, to name a few.
“We’re all in this community together, so we should understand each other’s backgrounds and we should not be afraid to celebrate each other’s cultures,” said Terrones, whose great-grandparents immigrated to Kansas from Mexico in the 1800s. “We can only be a better community for doing it.”
His sentiment is one of the reasons he was recently awarded the Diversity Advocate in Community Involvement award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy and Scholarship Awards Committee and the Olathe Branch of the NAACP. His hard work and dedication over the years also has earned him respect.
“To be a member of so many boards and committees, and yet still maintain a family and have a nine-to-five job is very admirable,” said Henry Lyons, the president of the Olathe branch of the NAACP. “This stuff takes a lot of time. I think Jim was a great choice for this award.”
Terrones, who is the deputy director of the Juvenile Detention Center, is honored and humbled by the recognition.
The people behind the award are his parents, he says. Growing up, they taught him to work hard, persevere and step outside his comfort zone.
“I was never raised to believe my skin color was going to be a road block,” he said. “I believe people just need to be themselves and have strength and character.”
When he’s not busy working behind the scenes of the community, Terrones tries to pass on those values.
“It’s important to me that my community remains safe, inviting, and a good place to raise a family,” he said. “I think many other people feel the same way. My goal is to encourage more citizens to get involved in local government, whether it’s sitting on a city committee or researching their elected officials before voting.”
In April, Terrones will stand for public office for the first time. He was appointed fill an open seat on the Olathe City Council for the third ward in June.
The past six months have been fun and eye-opening. He has enjoyed seeing how the city works, helping citizens address issues, and create change.
“The bottom line is Jim cares deeply about Olathe and our community, and he’s incredibly dedicated. He not only engages in our community, he truly listens,” said Mayor Michael Copeland. “That is what public service is all about.”
Whatever voters decide in April, Terrones says public service will always be a part of his life, as will advocating diversity.
“When I hear diversity, I don’t just think of skin color,” he said. “I think of the elderly, less fortunate, disabled, and at-risk youth. And I enjoy helping all these people.”