Member BenefitsMember Stories
Dec 11, 2023
3 Minute Read

Rick Zelfer, Mayor — Health Champion & Public Servant

Richard “Rick” Zelfer has created his own definition of aging, health, and retirement. While others in his demographic have retired, he’s done the opposite – he came out of retirement a few years ago and is currently serving as Mayor of the City of Lake Waukomis, Missouri. As a public servant and leader, you won’t find him sitting behind a desk or wearing a business suit. Rather, he can be found outside alongside contractors or in ditches near the dam managing the rebuilding of area infrastructure.

There is no slowing Zelfer down. His mind and body move with impressive agility and he is in constant motion in his job. Meet him today and you’d never guess that just a few years ago he was very overweight, in poor health and didn’t have much stamina.

“I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoes. I was that big,” said Zelfer. “I had diabetes, high blood pressure, and was taking insulin five times a day.”

The decision to get healthy

He credits his energy today and the fact that he’s still alive to a decision he made about his health a few years ago. In 2019, this Blue KC member underwent gastric bypass surgery. At the time, he weighed 325 pounds. He lost 150 pounds after the procedure. He’s worked hard to maintain his health and it’s paid off. He is no longer considered diabetic and doesn’t need any insulin.

The turning point

For Zelfer, family is everything. In 2014, he tragically and suddenly lost his wife of 40 years to kidney cancer. In hindsight, Zelfer says, “I didn’t realize looking back how depressed I was during that year.”

He found love again and remarried in 2016. Over the course of the next few years, he had a realization that inspired him to get healthy and lose weight. He did it for himself, but the biggest motivation was his family. He shared, “I wanted to make sure my family – my children and grandchildren — know who I am.”

In discussing his family, “Grandpa Rick” spoke adoringly of his children and grandchildren. He shared a loving story about a conversation he had with his granddaughter who is going to school to become a doctor. At her graduation ceremony he told her, “I hope I live long enough to see you save a life or bring one into the world.”

Post surgery

Zelfer has many recommendations for those who are considering gastric bypass surgery. Aside from being mentally prepared, he has learned from personal experience that “You have to change your lifestyle and dietary habits. You just watch what you eat. You learn what you can eat, what you can’t eat.” For Zelfer, that meant no more pasta.

Zelfer suggests those who undergo the surgery, “Take it slow and learn. Your body will tell you if you can eat something or you can’t eat something. Accept it, don’t try to fight it, don’t try to figure out how to cheat it, because that doesn’t do you or your body any good. I would tell anybody, you gotta keep active, you gotta be mentally ready to change your lifestyle. That’s the biggest key.”

“You have to build up your strength and that took me a little bit. But now I’ve got my strength back.”

Being active is important. In his leisure time, he enjoys playing golf and bowling and proudly professed he bowled a perfect game last year. When asked how long it took him to be able to get back on the golf course, Zelfer responded, “I started playing golf probably within six months.”

Zelfer is truly an inspiration for both his medical victory as well as his late career success as a public servant. He is feeling great and living his best life.

“There’s no secret sauce. You just gotta live day to day.”

For help finding a provider

Contact Blue Medicare Advantage Customer Service 8 am – 8 pm, 7 days a week* (866) 508 – 7140 *You may reach an answering service on weekends and holidays April 1 through September 30.


Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City’s Blue Medicare Advantage includes both HMO and PPO plans with Medicare contracts. Enrollment in Blue Medicare Advantage depends on contract renewal.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. The HMO products are offered by Blue-Advantage Plus of Kansas City, Inc. and the PPO products are offered by Missouri Valley Life and Health Insurance Company, both independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, and both wholly owned subsidiaries of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!