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On April 3, 1961, the Board of Shawnee County Commissioners hired Theodore “Ted” D. Ensley, a Kansas State University graduate with a degree in biology, as their Superintendent of Parks & Recreation for $300/mo salary.
Not only was Shawnee County Parks & Recreation a place where Ted worked…but where he and his wife Elna lived and raised their family.
In what used to be their home is now the Lake Shawnee Garden House and what used to be their front yard is now the most beautiful public garden in all of Topeka and Northeast Kansas. Serving as Director of Shawnee County Parks & Recreation for 31 years, Ted retired in 1992 and Lake Shawnee’s Botanical Gardens was renamed in his honor.
During Ted’s career, he and his staff were recognized nationally by the National Association of Parks & Recreation with their National Award of Excellence- Outstanding Organization Award. In 1985, Ted was awarded the Kansas Recreation and Parks Association Distinguished Fellow Award and Distinguished Service Professional by Community Resource Council, Recreation and Leisure Section.
In 2005, Ted Ensley was accepted into the Kansas Recreation and Parks Association’s Hall of Fame where, since 1948, only 22 former members have been recognized in this prestigious group.
After a brief retirement, from 1992 to 1994, Ted was appointed by Governor Joan Finney to be Secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Due to the flood damage in 1993, Ted guided that agency through what might have been one of the it’s toughest periods.
In 1996, Ted entered public life and was elected Shawnee County Commissioner and re-elected in 2000, 2004, and 2008.
Ted is past President of the Kansas Association of Counties. He is a member of the Arab Temple, serves as a Board member of the YMCA, serves on the Advisory Boards of CASA and the Stormont-Vail Regional Medical Center. Ted is a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce. Ted also served as a member of the Third Judicial District Community Planning Team for Juvenile Justice Reform and continues to work tirelessly on many local committees and boards.
Ted is a member of the Joint (City/County) Economic Development Organization.
Ted also chaired the United Way Campaign for Shawnee County. The year he chaired the campaign was one of the most successful campaigns and is still remembered by many employees as the most enjoyable campaign where Ted dressed-up as “batman”.
In 1999, Ted was named Arab Shriner of the year, received the Velma Paris Humanitarian Award in 2000 and the Friends of Education Award presented by the Kansas Association of Elementary School Principals in 2002.
In 2009, the Kansas Recreation and Park Association presented Ted with the 2009 Distinguished Elected Official Award. Ted Ensley was made an honored Elder by the Shawnee County Allied Tribes at the 2008 Pow Wow.
The contributions Ted has made to Shawnee County community and parks and wildlife profession are numerous, to list a few:
Shawnee County was the first department in Kansas to receive a Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (BOR) Grant.
Established natural resources’ policy for the State of Kansas.
Developed the Park system by acquiring a 175 acre park through the federal government’s “Legacy of Parks” legislation
Developed a 115 acre park and community center through transfer of title from Kansas S.R.S.
Initiated the Topeka Tinman Triathlon, which is one of the longest continued operating triathlons events in the country.
Initiated the stocking of rainbow trout in Kansas lakes and established Lake Shawnee as the first lake in Kansas to stock rainbow trout.
Instrumental in bringing the Kansas Expocentre to Topeka.
Ted and Elna Ensley have been married for over 50 years. Along with their three children, they have six grandchildren.
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