Montgomery County Checks Every Box for Young Families

Montgomery County Checks Every Box for Young Families Main Photo

27 Jan 2021


Independence, Kansas promotes itself as a thriving community, offering exceptional opportunities to work and live. Ryan and Lacey Lies are excellent examples of a family taking advantage of that opportunity.

Lacey is the Finance Director for the City of Independence, where she leads the financial activities of the City, including preparation of the annual city budget, payroll, accounts payable, utility billing, city licenses, and overseeing all the records of the City. Ryan is a wildlife habitat manager with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism at the Elk City Wildlife Area, just to the west of Independence. 

The Lies’ moved to Independence in 2016 as a way to get closer to home. After growing up in the Wichita area and studying at Kansas State University, they had started their careers in the San Antonio area. A job opportunity for Ryan allowed them an opportunity to get back to their Kansas roots. Now, they are raising their four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter in this rural community.

Lacey worked remotely as a Tax Manager for KPMG when they first moved, which she said sheltered her at first from everything Independence had to offer the business community.

Lacey and daughter Emerson on a hike“When we first moved, I was not aware of all the opportunities available in Independence,” she said. “Now, I interact daily with so many groups and unique individuals that illustrate the booming growth in the area.”

Coming from a big city, she never knew how helpful a place like the Chamber of Commerce could be to newcomers. 

“They have so many resources ready for business and individuals, like the Welcome Packet,” she said. “One simple phone call gave us access to so many resources and connected us to this community and all it has to offer.”

With the COVID-19 crisis dominating every facet of life, the city funded an Emergency Response Grant Program in 2020 to provide $5,000 grants to eligible businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, giving 71 businesses the assistance to stay open.

“In general, the business community has indicated they were able to get the funding they needed, which I attribute to the leadership and collaboration found at the City, Montgomery County Action Council, the Chamber, and Main Street working together to get the information out,” said Lacey. “It is a true example of how this community bonds together in times of need.”

Quality of Life

The Lies’ are extremely thankful for the move and have fallen in love with Montgomery County for several reasons. 

As a family with young children, the endless family activities are very important. Independence is home to the Riverside Park and Zoo, along the Verdigris River. This 123-acre site includes the Ralph Mitchell Zoo, tennis and aquatic facilities, trails, playgrounds, and numerous rental facilities and picnic areas. At only 5 cents a ride, the park also boasts a 1950 Allan Herschell carousel, a miniature train ride can be taken for a quarter, or you can play a round of miniature golf for only $2.

Hudson Emerson with a day’s catch“We are never bored, especially with so many kid-friendly activities in town,” said Lacey. “I love having the ability to stop in for an hour to the zoo or hike the trails without having to pay or remember a pass.”

The area is well-known for its outdoor recreation. The biggest draw for serious hikers is the nationally-known Elk River Hiking Trail, a 15-mile trail that runs from the north side of the Elk City Reservoir and through the Elk City Wildlife Area.

“For those who love being outdoors, this area is pretty unique,” said Ryan. “The 12,000-acre Elk City Wildlife Area is managed for fishing and hunting, with people coming from just about everywhere to hunt because of some of the highest densities of deer in the country.” The Elk City State Park offers excellent camping sites and easy access to the boating, kayaking, and other recreation at the Reservoir. 

And the Lies’ have found it easy to meet up with various social circles.

“Once we put in just the slightest effort into meeting folks, we were very comfortable quickly,” said Lacey. “The people here are a friendly, eclectic mix of lifetimers and transplants, and the town is bustling with all the amenities we could want: to shop, get a bite to eat, catch a movie, or even get a locally brewed beer at Indy Brew Works.” 

“I’m not a big fan of big cities, so I have found life here in Independence to be a good compromise between big cities and rural towns,” added Ryan. 

Happy with Decision

Lacey and Ryan Emerson overlooking the Elk City ReservoirAfter several years of living in Independence, the Lies’ are happy with their decision to move there and do not plan to leave. Ryan loves his job and the area outdoor recreation. “It really checks all the boxes for people looking to move to a more rural community: a safe area, great schools, accessible healthcare, job opportunities, affordable cost of living, tons of recreation opportunities, historic buildings and homes, and beautiful views” said Lacey. 

“This is an excellent place to live and work, and recently, we have realized we were lucky to be sheltered somewhat from the impacts of COVID-19, compared to other parts of the country,” said Lacey. 

Independence is a great place to raise a family, grow a business, or retire. Lacey stated, “I think the future of Independence is bright and I hope to see more families like mine move to the area and fall in love like we have.”