Archive for Thursday, January 25, 2007

Non-incumbents’ reasons vary for seeking positions

January 25, 2007

The six incumbents on the Baldwin City Council and Baldwin School board who are seeking re-election have said they want to continue to serve the community. The eight non-incumbents who have filed have different reasons for filing.

The four candidates who have filed for city council are Ken Wagner, a one-time council member, Jason Mock, who ran unsuccessfully two years ago, and newcomers Jennifer Hayes and Kenny Neihoff. Of the school board non-incumbents, Doug Mead ran unsuccessfully two years ago, but the other three -- Teresa Arnold, Josh Mihesuah and Dave Wagner -- haven't run in the Baldwin district before. Mihesuah, however, has served on a school board in Arizona.

Two of the city council candidates mentioned the need for planned growth, especially in the face of the Gardner Intermodal on the horizon, as one of the reasons they are running. They are candidates that have run before. Wagner who didn't seek re-election two years ago, also decided he wanted to return.

"I've missed it," said Wagner, who owns Heritage Tractor with his wife, Diane. "Two years ago I decided as an incumbent to step back and let others get involved.

"There are a couple of issues I see," said Wagner. "This growth issue is one that I think will continue in Baldwin, especially with the Intermodal. I think people need a choice in how they want to grow. The others are taxes and utilities. We need to look at lowering some utility rates. We need to attract some new businesses to give tax relief to our homeowners. That goes with growth."

Mock, who is a junior at Baker University and a graduate of Baldwin High School, said there's a need for a comprehensive plan because of the growth, as well as other concerns.

"Some of the issues I've heard is commitment to continuing projects, such as the downtown project," said Mock, who plans to do graduate work at the University of Kansas. "Another thing is a business park. There hasn't been any movement on that."

Two school board candidates mentioned the financial shortfall that occurred in the district this summer when the budget was overspent by $300,000 during the former superintendent's tenure. That problem has been fixed, for the most part, by new Supt. Paul Dorathy.

"With the continuing finance struggles of the district, most recently the budget fiasco, my finance/banking background would be a good fit for the district," said Mead, who works for Franklin Capitol Corporation.

D. Wagner believes taxpayers should have assurances.

"There have been violations of Kansas budget law in the management of district money," said D. Wagner. "It is very impressive how the new district leadership responded to this issue. There is reason for district taxpayers to be optimistic that a new era of fiscal responsibility is possible, if not already here.

"However, it is important that the district, especially the board of education, begin to tend to the public's confidence," he said. "Proper accounting, demonstrating improvements in efficiencies, leadership in accountability, and making sure the public sees what it is getting for the dollar spent is important to the success of voter's approval and thus a key component to meeting the education needs of the Baldwin district now and in the future."

Council candidates Hayes and Niehoff both cited community involvement as reasons for running.

"I have a couple of reasons for running, first and foremost is to be involved in my community and help to make it an even better place to live," said Hayes, who works in an Olathe bank. "I am also wanting to set a good example for my children and letting them know it is important to be involved in the community and that it is always better to be part of a plan and a solution instead of just a bystander."

Niehoff, who is an electrical technician for Bayer Animal Health in Shawnee and a life-long Baldwin area resident, wants to be part of the process.

"For quite awhile every other week, every time I open the Signal I see what the discussion are," said Niehoff. "Some of it I agree with, some of it I don't. I just want to be a part of how the city is going."

For Arnold, another long-time Baldwin resident and former clerk of the school board, she wants to put her experience to work.

"I have worked in the school system for 15 years and have been in the community all my life," said Arnold, who works at a Kansas City area company. "After being away from the school system for the past year, I want to remain active within the school system. I seek the at-large position with no agenda other than doing what is best for kids."

Mihesuah, who is a realtor with Stephens Real Estate, has a wealth of education experience, including 27 years in higher education as an administrator.

"I am running for the school board position because of the children in the Baldwin School District," said Mihesuah. "In this competitive world, it's important that our children receive the best education they can. Teachers need to be adequately compensated and appreciated and parents need to feel that they can get involved in their children's schools.

"I have always tried to give back to the communities where I live, such as the six years on the school board of the Flagstaff (Ariz.) United School District as both president of the board and as a board member."

The Signal will continue to profile candidates, including incumbents, in future issues. More information can be found on-line at www.baldwincity.com.

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