Mike Sanders' Biography
Mike Sanders has always called Greater Kansas City home, even when away during his service as a United States Army officer and while a student at The Ohio State University (OSU) School of Law.
Education & Military Service
After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Mike set out for law school at The Ohio State University. However, after a semester, he volunteered to serve the nation in the military during the Gulf War era. He was a commissioned officer in the United States Army, rising to the rank of first lieutenant.
Upon completing his military service, he resumed his studies and earned his Juris Doctorate from The OSU School of Law in 1994.
Jackson County Prosecutor
Initially, Mike embarked on his law career in 1994 in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. He served as a special prosecutor for the Jackson County Drug Task Force and was the lead attorney for D.A.R.T. (Drug Abatement Response Team). He personally prosecuted drug dealers, armed robbers, rapists and murderers.
In 1995, he received the Rookie Prosecutor of the Year award from the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. That same year Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) named Mike the Top Prosecutor of the Year for the state of Missouri. MADD’s Heartland Chapter also presented him the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.
In 1997, Mike entered private practice, yet continued to serve the County’s citizens as an appointed special counsel by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office.
Mike was first elected Jackson County Prosecutor in 2002, then reelected in 2004. During his tenure as the elected Prosecutor, he retooled and strengthened the County’s jailing procedures, pioneered legislation and enlisted extensive DNA testing to convict perpetrators of both recent crimes and dozens of previously unsolved “cold cases.” He also pursued the prosecution of several serial killers and he streamlined spending and accountability measures in the County’s COMBAT Program.
In the fall of 2005, Mike joined with citizens in the community to launch “The Silence Is Killing Us.” The campaign put existing dollars and more innovative strategies to work in creating safer communities.
The campaign, beginning with rallies in the Prospect and Troost corridors, focused on the neighborhoods most affected by the homicides and it exceeded many of its goals.
Jackson County Executive
Mike was first elected Jackson County Executive in 2006, then re-elected in both 2010 and 2014. Since taking office in January 2007, he has worked to fundamentally change the way Jackson County Government operates on a daily basis. He immediately acted to limit his own Executive authority, worked toward comprehensive ethics reform and demanded that the county live within its economic means.
Despite dealing with the greatest economic crisis since The Great Depression, Mike and his administration have balanced the county budget for five consecutive years. This has been accomplished without raising taxes or sacrificing vital citizen services. By making “doing more with less” the unofficial county motto, Sanders has re-created Jackson County government into a leaner, more efficient operation by working with all county departments to cut their budgets.
Mike also worked with community partners in order to save taxpayer expense. On July 31, 2009 he announced the opening of the Regional Correctional Center. This cooperative agreement between Jackson County and Kansas City, Missouri has ensured public safety, reduced duplicative services and saved taxpayers millions of dollars.
In 2008, Mike saw an opportunity to attack three major problems in a unique way. With various neighborhoods within Jackson County suffering from blight and hopelessness, Mike created the Constructing Futures program.
Partnering with the non-profit, Connections to Success and working with various other community agencies, Jackson County has been able to provide a once homeless family the opportunity of home ownership in a newly renovated home. During the process of rehabbing the home, individuals who were once incarcerated receive valuable job training. The three-fold realization of this program is that a family, once homeless, gets a chance to start a new life, a local neighborhood works toward revitalization and individuals who were behind bars get a chance to turn their lives around.
In March 2010, Mike introduced the formation of a seven person Charter Task Force. Chaired by former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, the Task Force was asked to complete the most comprehensive review of the Jackson County Charter since its original passage in 1970.
After holding multiple public meetings, gaining citizen input and presenting their recommendations to the Jackson County Legislature, the revised charter was placed on the August 2010 ballot.
The ballot measure passed with 60% of the vote. The passage of the new charter made Jackson County more ethical and transparent. Key changes included limiting the power of the County Executive when issuing no bid professional services contracts. Every contract over $5,000 now requires a competitive bid process. The new charter also included enhanced ethics reforms and made it easier for citizens to lodge complaints against elected or appointed county officials and county employees. Additionally, an automatic review process has been put in place so that the charter is reexamined regularly every 10 years.
Mike is a member of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association, Missouri Association of Trial Attorney’s, American Legion and an active member of the Mizzou Alumni Association.
Mike and his wife, Georgia Cardwell Sanders, are the proud parents of two sons, Jonathan Michael and Patrick David. The family resides in Independence.