Gabe Faimon
| Reporter

BURLINGAME—Former Kansas Secretary of State and Osage County and Burlingame native son, Ron Thornburgh, will be honored April 17, in Burlingame, for his service to citizens of Kansas.

A recognition dinner for Thornburgh will be held Saturday, April 17 at the Masonic Building, 106 E. Fremont, Burlingame. A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m., with dinner served at 6 p.m. An address by the former secretary will follow.

The dinner is open to the public, and tickets may be purchased at Godderz Law Office, in Burlingame, or by contacting Shari Weber at (785) 366-0104 or (785) 828-3859.

Thornburgh was the 29th Kansas Secretary of State, elected to his first four-year term in 1994 and re-elected in 1998, 2002 and 2006. He resigned from his office Feb. 15 to take a job in the private sector.

Under his guidance, the secretary’s office played a vital role in making state government more accessible to all Kansas citizens. During his tenure, he demonstrated significant leadership and management skills that generated higher voter turnout and created more opportunities for public access to and use of government through digital electronic systems.

Following graduation from Burlingame High School, Thornburgh went to Washburn University.

Tuesday, reflecting on the beginning of his career in Kansas government as a clerk in the office of then-Secretary of State Jack Brier, he said, “I was just a sophomore in college, looking for a way to pay bills.”

He graduated from Washburn University in 1985 with a degree in criminal justice. He also played basketball for the Ichabods.

“Two great mentors, Jack Brier and Bill Graves, piqued my interest in public service,” Thornburgh said.

In 1992, then-Secretary of State Bill Graves appointed Thornburgh as assistant secretary of state.

After Graves announced that he was going to seek the office of governor, Thornburgh determined, “It was time for me to chart my own course.”

He chose to seek the office that Graves was vacating.

“I started my campaign with the support of my mentors, a lot of excitement and no money,” he said.

Thornburgh received the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2002 Digital Government Agent of Change Award for leading Kansas to national prominence in electronic government.

When asked about the most fulfilling aspect of his public service career, he said, “Figuring out how to electronically link identity of an individual with a signature.”

During his public service career, Thornburgh received numerous additional awards for service to the state, including The Mike Harder Public Administrator of the Year Award in 2006 from the American Society for Public Administration, Kansas Chapter. He also was awarded the 2005 Cable’s Leaders in Learning Award in policy making for increasing voter turnout among 18 to 24-year-olds through the Kids Voting Kansas Program. In February 2004, he was awarded the Lee Ann Elliott Election Excellence award by Kids Voting USA, which promoted the importance of democracy in action to Kansas youth. Kids Voting Kansas was recognized as the largest organization in the nation that promoted youth democracy in action. Thornburgh is also a graduate of Leadership Kansas, becoming the May 2005 recipient of the Jim Edwards Leadership Kansas Alumnus of the Year Award. In 2006, he was chosen to be a part of the Aspen Institute’s Aspen-Rodel Fellowship in Public Service.

Thornburgh joined NIC in February as the senior vice president of sales and marketing. The Olathe-based company is a provider of government portals, online services and secure government payment processing solutions.

Thornburgh and his wife, Annette, have two sons, Grey and Tanner.

In March, Governor Mark Parkinson appointed Chris Biggs, former securities commissioner and Geary County prosecutor, to fill Thornburgh’s vacancy..