As director of council and community relations for Mayor Sly James, Jim Giles is in the business of making a difference for Kansas City, Mo.
“I’m an important point of contact for the City Council, legislation, communication with the mayor, staffs and standing committees,” he says.
He also acts as a critical liaison for the public and works to foster community engagement.
“The mayor really values citizen engagement,” Giles says. “He’s also serious about diversity in his boards and commissions. He wants geographic diversity, gender parity, sexual orientation, age, people with disabilities. He’s committed to the younger folks in town being represented and having their say.”
As an example, he points to the Mayor’s Challenge Cabinet, a committee of young professionals that form task forces around innovation and digital policy.
Ashley Hand, the mayor’s chief innovation officer, chimes in about the Challenge Cabinet.
“It’s so much fun to get people who traditionally aren’t in civics engaged,” she says. “They not only see under the curtain, like how policy is made and advanced through Council, but they also get to work directly with departments.”
Giles began working to advance the mission of the LGBT community at a young age.
“I started college at a small private college in Shreveport, Louisiana, where the Civil War was still being fought on some levels,” he says. “Race issues were prevalent, and LGBT issues were NOT out on the table. We formed a gay and lesbian student group there.”
He finished his bachelor’s degree in sociology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he started another LGBT student group. He proudly reports that this group will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. Giles also earned a master’s degree in public administration from UMKC.
He will give an address in May at UMKC’s Lavender Graduate Recognition and Pride Awards, an annual event that celebrates the accomplishments of the college’s LGBT students, faculty, and staff.
Giles is also active with the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, as a member of the board of directors and a co-chair of the annual Business Equality Conference. He’s enthusiastic about the strides the Chamber is making.
“I’ve seen the [LGBT] community grow, in terms of maturity, in terms of ability to develop organizations and fund them and make a difference,” he says. “It’s fun to be a part of the Kansas City community on all levels, but especially the LGBT population, which has just come so far.”
He mentions the city’s participation in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index for the last three years, in which it earned a score of 85 the first year and 100, the top score, the following two years.
Throughout the mayor’s office, there’s an excitement about Kansas City.
“This is Kansas City’s time — you can feel the energy,” Hand says.
Joni Wickham, the mayor’s chief of staff, adds, “Kansas City has come so far so quickly, and we haven’t even begun to tap our full potential.”
But according to Giles, no one is a stronger advocate for the city than James.
“I thought I loved Kansas City the most in town, but the mayor is our biggest booster,” Giles says. “And he’s all about authenticity and integrity.”
We are lucky to have them advocating for our cause.
Photo credit: Landon Vonderschmidt
The Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MAGLCC) is an organization that advocates, promotes and facilitates the success of the LGBT business community and its allies. Learn more at MAGLCC.org.