Ashley Gilfillan

President of Downtown Topeka Inc. & Director of River Strategies

Ashley Gilfillan is the ultimate community champion! As the President of Downtown Topeka Inc. and Director of River Strategies, she combines two of her passions: community placemaking and the great outdoors. Ashley is a proud lifelong Topekan and a true advocate for her city. She believes in the power of lifelong learning and professional development, and as a graduate of the University of Kansas, she obtained a certificate in Leadership Strategies and Applications to enhance her skills even further.

When Ashley isn’t busy making her community a better place, you can find her and her husband attending as many local events as possible. They love to immerse themselves in the vibrant culture of Topeka, from live music to outdoor festivals and everything in between. Ashley is also an active volunteer, serving on the Board of Directors for Valeo Behavioral Health Care and the Downtown Topeka Foundation, as well as the Board of Trustees for the Topeka Performing Arts Center.

But don’t be fooled by her impressive resume, Ashley knows how to have fun too! She’s always up for trying new things, from taking a dance class to trying a new restaurant in town. She’s passionate about the outdoors and loves to hike and camp with her family, and if you’re ever looking for a good book recommendation, Ashley’s your go-to person.

What's your favorite local business or entrepreneur that you've worked with, and why?
Zach Stanek from Oleander Cafe. Zach is one of those humans who put good out into the world. When I ran events for Evergy Plaza, I once saw him decide not to sell any of his hot chocolate at a cold event, and instead passed it out for free amongst the crowd to warm everyone up. It’s one of the many examples I’ve seen of him giving back to the community on a daily basis. Plus, his food is pretty fantastic.
What's one small change that an individual or family can make to contribute to the local economy's growth?
Whenever possible, shop local.
What inspired you to work in the field of community economic development?
I truly love this community. As I’ve grown professionally, I realized I wanted to make a bigger impact and began to look at how I could make larger and longer-lasting contributions. Seeing some of the catalytic transformations happen around me, really helped push me to want to be a part of this positive change in our community.

Ashley has a deep love for the outdoors and has dedicated over two decades of her professional life to parks and recreation. From organizing community events to maintaining green spaces, Ashley has always been committed to creating welcoming and inclusive outdoor spaces for all to enjoy. Ashley firmly believes that parks and nature are essential for the well-being of individuals and communities alike, and she strives to make sure that everyone has access to these vital resources.


Ashley has always loved the thrill of exploring new places and trying new things, which is why she adores spending time in Downtown Topeka. For her, it’s the one place in the city where she can park her car and decide on a whim what to do next. Whether she’s in the mood for food from around the world, quaint coffee shops, fine dining, or cozy pubs, Downtown Topeka never disappoints.

But that’s just the beginning of what makes Downtown Topeka so special. With everything from artsy galleries and arcades to bowling alleys, axe-throwing ranges, and indoor golf courses, Ashley can always find something fun and exciting to do. And when she wants to cool off on a hot day, she can splash around in the splash pads or take to the ice for some ice skating.

But the entertainment doesn’t stop there. Ashley can catch an indie movie at an indoor cinema or take in an outdoor concert under the stars. And when she’s ready to shop, Downtown Topeka has everything from retail stores to quirky oddity shops, all with their own unique charm.

But let’s not forget the history that surrounds her. With countless historical sites and landmarks, Ashley can easily take a stroll down memory lane and appreciate the rich heritage of her city.

It’s no wonder Ashley loves spending time in Downtown Topeka. It’s a place where there’s always something new and exciting to discover, from festivals and 5ks to the best popcorn and chocolate on earth.