Nick Parker is not the name of an elusive Lee’s City octopus. Parker is a human with short, mostly gray hair and a neatly trimmed beard. But on a recent day, his arms were swinging so wildly and rapidly—a blur that filled his office and recording space—the metaphor of that eight-tented clam was hard to ignore.
Parker, who often sports a broad smile, has an inquisitive mind and the ability to listen deeply. And he seems to have the energy and enthusiasm to devote to anything that excites him. A longtime resident of Lee’s Summit and ardent supporter of all things town, he created Link 2 Lee’s Summit in 2016 and became producer of his podcast Lee’s Summit Town Hall in 2017.
The 47-year-old works in an old vault in the former Post Office building at 210 SW Market St. in the city centre. Now called Bridge Space, it exists to help entrepreneurs succeed.
Parker’s background is in print journalism. She wrote for community newspapers, including Lee’s Summit Journal, from 1995 to 2005, before moving into the corporate world of news publishing, then into marketing for a commercial real estate firm. Then she took on Lee’s summit challenge to create a forum to tell local stories, promote local businesses, and support the community. And if more than 600 episodes and downloads from more than 50,000 people is the measure, it has been successful on all fronts.
“I originally started writing about local business and economic development because there really wasn’t anyone doing it,” she said. “To complement that, I built an app with a directory for every local business I could find. As I started to realize that people were reading what I put on the site and in the weekly newsletter, I branched out into local elections and features.
The value of analyzing and reporting on local election issues has never been questioned.
“The great thing is providing information to voters and influencing change,” he said. But eventually he got too frustrating. “I liked local politics until things got ugly nationally and locally.”
Jason Norbury, the original co-host of the Town Hall podcast, sees the value in trying to move the Link 2 Lee’s Summit audience to a different approach. People can make more change locally than dealing with a state or higher legislator, he said. City council members, for example, are much more accessible.
“You can make a big difference.”
He met Parker during Downtown Lee’s Main Street activities when he had a law office downtown. He was a member of the board of directors of DLSMS. Parker is a current board member. As a podcast co-host, Norbury watched Parker create stories and develop his interviewing style.
“He has a natural gift, and he’s really been working on his gift,” Norbury said. “And over time he’s gotten really good at it.”
Parker said life became more fun after she refocused her energies from political conflict to storytelling.
“I get to meet great people in the city,” she said. “We just have to sit here and talk to people. Lee’s Summit is a great little town and we need to capture that history.
New co-host Liesl Hays joins him now to deliver segments that can be as lighthearted as an interview with a musical family or as intense as a piece on youth suicide.
One of her first podcast interviews was with One Good Meal, a nonprofit that delivers meals to local inmates and senior citizens. The organization was at a crossroads, with no money to pay the bills. People showed up to support them through that crisis, he said she, and it was hugely impressive.
The third goal of the Link 2 Lee Summit is community service. Parker says that like many cities, Lee’s Summit has 50 to 100 people carrying the load of getting things done. “The question is, ‘How do we grow that group?’ I felt compelled to start preaching it.
It’s easy enough to get involved, he said. “Take off your pockets and donate.” Write a check, spread the word about an opportunity, volunteer your time and energy. “Great things happen in a community when people get involved.”
When COVID-19 changed the nature of service and upended workplace norms, Parker was already there and he loved it. He has had an advantage in intertwining work responsibilities with family commitments with his sister, Katy; his wife, Stefania; and his son Charlie. He continues to focus on the three aspects of the Link 2 Lee Summit: Local Stories, Local Business and Community Service.
One could do worse than being compared to a sea creature. After all, even the eight-legged octopus has three hearts. Parker has at least that many.