DT | Arvest Bank Presents: Joni Wickham & Sly James
During our Conversations from the Top series sponsored by Arvest Bank, attendees will hear from key business leaders and community influencers as they dive into the latest issues impacting business performance, organizational culture, HR, marketing, sales, operations and many other business channels.
Former Mayor Sly James and his Chief of Staff, Joni Wickham, will interview each other in front of an audience of Central Exchange members and guests, about their different leadership styles and how they worked together in the Mayor’s office to lead the city into its renaissance. They’ve shown that two very different people from very different backgrounds can actually use their unique perspectives to create a complementary approach to problem solving, leadership and collaboration.
Sly James was elected Mayor on March 22, 2011 and sworn in on May 1, 2011. He was born and raised in Kansas City and learned valuable lessons about resiliency and dedication watching his parents work hard to take care of their family. Despite the challenges they faced, Sly's father, a chef, janitor, and small business owner; and his stepmother, who helped manage their business, still made sure that Sly and his brothers had the opportunity to go to a good school and follow their dreams. This laid the foundation for James' commitment to education and ensuring every child receives a high-quality education regardless of where they live or their socio-economic background. Sly James focused his efforts while in office, to make Kansas City best in 4 areas: Education, Employment, Efficiency, and Enforcement.
Prior to his election, James enjoyed a successful legal career which spanned almost three decades. He developed a proven record of success as a leader, an effective coalition builder, and a fierce advocate. He joined Blackwell, Sanders, Matheny, Weary & Lombardi in 1983, and became the first African-American partner in the firm's history in 1990. In February, 2002, he started his own successful small business, The Sly James Firm, where he worked with victims to seek justice and positive outcomes to disputes.
Sly attended Bishop Hogan High School in Kansas City, graduating in 1969. After serving his country as a military police officer for four years in California, the Philippines, and Japan during the Vietnam War, he graduated cum laude from Rockhurst College. He then went on to earn his law degree, also cum laude, from the University of Minnesota in 1983.
Sly James has been married to Licia Clifton-James since 1981 and is the proud father of four children. He has long had a passion for music and was the lead singer in the Amelia Earhart Memorial Flying Band. Little known fact: his band once opened for Jefferson Airplane in Kansas City!
Joni Wickham is a seasoned leader in government and politics and has directed public policy initiatives, communications strategies, and political campaigns for several organizations and elected officials, including most recently Kansas City, Missouri Former Mayor Sly James, who was elected to a second term in 2015 with 88% percent of the vote. She led Former Mayor James' efforts to pass the largest infrastructure bond package in Kansas City's history in April 2017, negotiated major economic development projects including a new single terminal, convention hotel, streetcar line, and Urban Youth Baseball Academy. Additionally, she created the first-of-its-kind local government women's empowerment initiative, which led to 11 speaking engagements advising other cities on how they can replicate the program.
Joni graduated from Meredith College in North Carolina, before earning her Master's in Political Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She's an advocate for good government, empowering women in leadership and her husband's band. Whether it's advancing the political agenda, raising a 4-year-old daughter, or keeping tabs on her dog from the city's animal shelter, Joni's plate is always full.