This September, we are proud to acknowledge Jon Harkness as Riley County’s Employee of the Month. Jon serves as Facilities and Grounds Technician II in the Parks Department and his dedication, strong work ethic, and friendly demeanor make him a standout member of the team.
Jon joined the department in 2005, contributing to the maintenance and improvement of Riley County's parks and facilities.
Earlier this year, he was promoted to facility supervisor for the Riley County Fairgrounds. Jon and the Parks Crew are responsible for maintaining both indoor and outdoor spaces. This includes setting up and dismantling event setups in Pottorf Hall, often during weekends and beyond regular working hours. Notably, their contributions were crucial during the preparation for the Riley County Fair and Kaw Valley Rodeo in July.
Jon's excellent work, in particular, earned him a nomination from Gary Fike, K-State Riley County Extension Department Director. Gary highlighted Jon's ability to handle various situations, his strong work ethic, and his attention to detail. These qualities underscore Jon's commitment to ensuring smooth operations, particularly during challenging times. This year, the fair faced extreme heat, a severe thunderstorm, and an incident with unruly teens which required police response.
“A lot more work goes into the fair than most people realize,” Jon modestly acknowledged.
Jon explained the Parks Crew started preparations for the fair weeks ahead of time. The process kicks off with the beef and swine shows in early June, and dog agility, obedience, and showmanship leading up to the big events at the end of July.
“The rodeo had a total attendance of 10,000 people this year and about 5,000-6,000 people visited the carnival each day. In addition, all 40 commercial booth spaces were occupied this year. Jon set up electrical outlets, water hydrants, handled deliveries and trash, and even helped people park trailers. I sincerely mean this when I say we wouldn’t have had this much success without Jon. I can’t say enough good about the guy!” exclaimed Gary Fike.
In addition to his commitment to excellence, Jon's kind and helpful nature and welcoming smile make him a pleasure to work with. Despite his demanding role, he is always willing to lend a hand.
Outside of his professional achievements, Jon values his role as a family man. Jon has four children and is on the verge of becoming an empty-nester. His 17-year-old daughter is the last child living at home.
With a background rooted in farm life and Boy Scouts, Jon's commitment to preserving and protecting the Flint Hills region shines through. Born in Wamego as the middle of seven children, he grew up working on the family farm in Kansas and then in Nebraska. As a young man, Jon learned camping and wilderness skills through the Boy Scouts, then returned to Manhattan where he earned a degree in Park Management and Conservation at K-State.
Congratulations, Jon! Your hard work is recognized and valued, and we extend our gratitude for all that you bring to our team and community.