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Fort Scott: Health care among the challenges facing commission candidates

Fort Scott City Commission

Editor’s note: To help readers make their voting choices in the Nov. 5 general election for local offices, The Journal, the Kansas Leadership Center’s quarterly magazine, sent out a survey to more than 250 candidates in communities where our magazine’s readership is the largest. What follows is information from  your local candidates, in their own words.

Update: Click here for Tuesday’s unofficial results as reported by fortscott.biz.

Cynthia Bartelsmeyer, candidate for Fort Scott City Commission

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

My name is Cynthia Bartelsmeyer. I was born and raised in Bourbon County and I have resided in Fort Scott since 1994. I graduated from Uniontown schools, Fort Scott Community College, Pittsburg State University, and the University of Kansas. I have a Master’s Degree in Social Work. I am retired from Fort Scott Community College where I was employed as Associate Dean of Grants and Institutional Advancement. Currently I work in our family business. Volunteer experience includes: the American Red Cross as Board Member and Disaster Services Worker; Bourbon County CASA as Board Member and Child Advocate; Bourbon County Coalition as Board Member; Good Neighbor Blitz as a Volunteer; and Friends of the Fort National Historic Site as a Board Member and volunteer. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve on the Fort Scott City Commission for eight years including three years as Mayor. In the past eight years, we have seen many positive changes in our city and we are working hard to grow and enrich our community. Recently our local hospital closed leaving our citizens uneasy and concerned for the future. Fort Scott, like many small rural communities, is facing challenges such as loss of health care facilities, failing infrastructure, loss of white collar jobs, declining population, increased taxation, inadequate housing and blighted buildings. Leaders in Fort Scott are working diligently to address these challenges; however, we still have much work to do. Fort Scott is a resilient community and we are strong. I am running for office because I wish to continue to assist in advancing Fort Scott by serving as a City Commissioner.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

The most important goal for our community is to build a sustainable future for our citizens, children, and grandchildren. After graduation from high school and college, our youth are moving away to urban areas to pursue employment and higher paying jobs. As a Community, we must create an environment for the economic success of our citizens by providing increased education and employment opportunities. Quality health care for families is of upmost importance; we will continue our hard work to pursue and develop opportunities for health care agencies to provide services in Fort Scott. Efforts and plans in place to restore infrastructure include streets, sidewalks, water, and wastewater. Our community must examine the current tax structure and identify solutions to reduce our taxes. We need to make Fort Scott a place where people want to live — a place where our youth will remain to purchase homes and raise their families.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

Serving as a city commissioner means much more than attending meetings twice a month. It means being informed and listening to concerns of citizens. I will strive to continue with an open transparent government —a government that encourages communication and participation from our citizens. In our community, citizens have the ability to voice opinions and to help make the tough decisions. A City Commissioner must have fiscal responsibility; ethics and integrity to instill public trust; open and honest communication; and professionalism, commitment, and vision for the future. I have the attributes necessary to serve on the commission — to work with others in our community to assist in making Fort Scott a better place to live. As the City of Fort Scott continues to move in a positive direction, I wish to participate. If elected, I will support activities that improve our health care and infrastructure, activities that promote economic growth and jobs, and activities that improve the safety and well-being of our community.

To what extent are you concerned about the future of health care in your community?

To a very great extent

Do you see health care as being primarily a local issue or a regional one?

Regional issue

What role, if any, does local government have to play in ensuring the availability of health care in your community?

Currently, the most important issue in Fort Scott is the future of our health care. Health care is not just a local issue — it is of regional and national concern. Lack of quality health care affects the populations of southeast Kansas and many other rural communities throughout the United States. According to HealthyPeople.gov, Healthy People 2020*, access to health services affects a person’s health and well-being. Regular and reliable access to health services can:

  • Prevent disease and disability
  • Detect and treat illnesses or other health conditions
  • Increase quality of life
  • Reduce the likelihood of premature (early) death
  • Increase life expectancy

*A Federal Government web site managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201

As our local hospital announced its closure, city government stepped up and has played an integral part in developing and planning for the availability of health care in Fort Scott. The City identified key leaders in the community including County government to address the future of health care in Fort Scott. Currently the County and City governments share responsibility for ambulance services, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas (CHC/SEK) provides urgent care and physician services, and Via Christi provides emergency room services. Planning continues as we work to resolve the health care issues in our community.

How would you prioritize health care in comparison to other issues that you expect to deal with while serving in office?

In the future, the challenge of health care in our community is the number one priority. We must determine how to support the local health care services currently offered and improve upon and/or expand those services. Health care services will come with a cost; consequently, we will have to consider all funding options. We will continue to have discussions with key community leaders to develop and build a health care system that fits the needs of our citizens. We must educate the community on the health care benefits offered locally and encourage people to access their local health care providers as much as possible.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Fort Scott City Commission candidates Harold (Pete) Allen, Kevin “Skitch” Allen, Josh Jones, Deb McCoy and Lindsey Watts.

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