Executive of the Year

Executive of the Year

In 1970, SME Topeka honored Governor Robert Docking as our first Executive of the Year. Since then, we have honored forty individuals for excellence in their fields and their positive contributions to Northeast Kansans. We are now pleased to recognize the outstanding achievements of Joan Wagnon as the 2016 Executive of the Year.

When Joan Wagnon got the call from Judy Olander that the YWCA was without a director and experiencing severe financial difficulties, she volunteered to help.  From October 25, 2015 to July 25, 2016,  Joan Wagnon served as Interim CEO of the YWCA of Northeast Kansas.   She is widely credited for the turnaround the organization experienced.  She continued to implement programming for the YWCA throughout 2016, organizing forums on racism, advocacy clinics and networking programs.

Joan is no stranger to the world of non-profits. She served as executive director of the Topeka YWCA from 1977 to 1993, and director of Kansas Families for KIDS from 1995-1997, an agency promoting adoption.  During her tenure at the YWCA she developed programs for domestic violence, employment and training for non-traditional jobs for women, counseling, child care and other youth development programs.

She left Kansas Families for KIDS to become Mayor of Topeka from 1997-2001 where she focused on downtown and neighborhood redevelopment.  She led the effort to pledge part of the city’s sales tax for economic development and created the Joint Economic Development Organization that became Go Topeka.

Joan’s interest in politics stemmed from the work she did at the YWCA advocating for women, children and families.  She was elected to the Kansas Legislature in 1982 and served for 12 years concurrently with her service at the YWCA.  During that time she authored many pieces of legislation in the areas of domestic violence, child-care and education.  She was a leader in developing the school finance plan in 1992 that stood for 20 years.  She worked with Downtown Topeka Inc. to create and pass the first Neighborhood Redevelopment Act.

While in the legislature she became interested in tax policy and is a recognized expert in that field.  She was appointed Secretary of Revenue for the State of Kansas from 2003-2011 by Governors  Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.  During this time she served as President of the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board, Chair of the Multistate Tax Commission and on the board of directors for the Federation of Tax Administrators.

After leaving public service in 2011 she worked for the Federal Tax Authority, a start-up company providing tax calculation and remittance services for online merchants.  Her role was representing the company before Congress as they sought to enact the Main Street Fairness Act.  She also worked with many state revenue departments.  She retired in 2015.

She also found time to serve as Chair of the Kansas Democratic Party (2011-2015) and Treasurer of the Girl Scouts of the USA (2005-2014).  Wagnon has a long history of volunteering in the Topeka community, having served on many boards and committees.

Currently she is the financial secretary for the Shawnee County Historical Society, and serves on the boards of directors of the Center for Peace and Justice, the Kansas Legislative Oral History Project and the Latch Keyboard Project as well as Treasurer for the Kansas Democratic Party.

Joan is an active Rotarian and is currently organizing the 2017 Freedom Festival for the club.

Joan and her husband, Bill have lived in Topeka since 1968. Bill was a Professor of History at Washburn University.  They have two sons, Jack and William and three grandchildren.


SME Topeka Executives of the Year
1970      Gov. Robert Docking
1971      Dr. Kenneth McFarland
1972     Willard Noller
1973     Gov. Alf Landon
1974     Lou Falley
1975     Fred Kuehne
1976     Charles Marling
1977     Vernon Jarboe
1978     Joe Burke
1979     Larry Ireland
1980     Ron Miller
1981     Eldon Danenhauer
1982    H. Pat Powers
1983    Dr. John Green
1984    Mayor Doug Wright
1985    Lanny Kimbrough
1986    David Stremming
1987    Harry Turner, Jr.
1988    Gary Clarke
1989    Harold Worswick Jr.
1990    Robert Wheeler
1991    Howard Fricke
1992   Ben Blair
1993   John E. Hayes, Jr.
1994   Don Lilya
1995   Betty Simecka
1996   Emery Fager
1997   Frank Sabatini
1998   Tom Schwartz
1999   Dr. Jerry Farley
2000  Maynard Oliverus
2001  Steven Douglass
2002  Nancy Perry
2003  David Leamon
2004  Kent Garlinghouse
2005  Kris Robbins
2006  Ray Irwin
2007  Harry W. Craig, Jr.
2008  Duane L. Fager
2009  John Dicus
2010  James W. Parrish
2011  Joanne Morrell
2012 Steve Briman
2013 Vince Frye
2014  John Hunter and Anita Wolgast
2015  Jim Klausman
2016  Joan Wagnon