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Hays: How would commission candidates shape the city’s future?

Putting the City of Hays on a path to a better future is one of the big topics on the minds of the five candidates running for three slots on the city commission that will be decided Nov. 5.

Improving wages, cultivating a sustainable water resource, dealing with demographic change, listening to constituents and developing a unified, strategic direction for the economy, community and residents all top candidates’ priority lists.

Read more about each of the candidates in their own words below or click on the jump link to read the survey responses of school board candidates.

Update: Click here for unofficial election results as reported by the Hays Post.

View survey responses of candidates for the Hays USD 489 Board of Education

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

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.

Michael Berges, candidate for Hays City Commission

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

I’m a nearly 20-year resident of Hays as my career path after graduating from Fort Hays State has led me to be a financial advisor going on 11 years, serving clients in Hays and surrounding communities. With a degree in political science, I have always had a grain of interest in governance. As my wife and I raise our three boys, the impact of local decisions on our community has called me to be more involved to help shape the progress of Hays for future generations.

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.

Wage stagnation Hays needs to become more proactive in finding greater economic incentives to attract industries in technology/manufacturing/real estate that will create career opportunities for the workforce. We must break away from using retail strategies as our default for growth prospects that only generate low-wage occupations.

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.

I believe the City of Hays needs to collaborate better with larger entities like the County of Ellis. As well as bring the direction of smaller groups like Grow Hays, Downtown Hays, the Chamber of Commerce, among others, into a unified approach benefiting our community as an attraction point for all western Kansas. It is my goal to speak to each of these groups and maintain that dialogue as a commissioner.

Ron Mellick, candidate for Hays City Commission

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

I am in the floor covering business and self-employed. I have lived in Hays for 46 years. I am running for office to continue the city’s pursuit of a long-term water supply.

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 pursuit of transferring water from the Hays owned R-9 ranch in Edwards County. Hays is a leader in water conservation, as well as conservation practices in the state and we must secure a viable and sustainable water source for the next 50-75 years.

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.

We need to have the water use at the R-9 ranch changed from agricultural to municipal. When this change is made, it will invoke the Water Transfer Act. We will then work with many different State Agencies to achieve the goal of using Hays OWNED water rights to transfer water to Hays.

Mason R. Ruder, candidate for Hays City Commission

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

To be brief, I am a young husband and father who wants to do everything I can to ensure the area I live and raise my family in is the best place it can be for my family and others.

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 single most important issue for my term would be giving clear direction of how the future of the city should look. I want to tackle the loss of the younger generation, how to properly take care of the aging population, and a place for families to settle for the long run.

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.

I want to get the citizens involved more. It might take work, but it’ll be worth it. The meetings are bare unless a “major” instance brings in a neighborhood. Meet and greets, door to door, open forums. Those are steps to get the people involved. The decisions made by the commission affect everyone. The people need a better avenue to express their points.

Ryan Rymer, candidate for Hays City Commission

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

As a candidate for Hays City Commission, I believe it is the duty of the commission to act in the best interests of the residents of the City of Hays and to provide opportunities for growth and development that is beneficial for everyone.

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.

City leaders should listen to their constituents without being dismissive. I believe that a select few leaders have lost sight of this and I will do my best to earn the trust and confidence of those I serve.

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.

As an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves I have learned that the road to success is paved with trust, confidence, and mutual respect. Not only listening to supporters, but everyone you serve is critical.

Henry Schwaller, candidate for the Hays City Commission

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

I’m Henry Schwaller, currently serving on the Hays City Commission, and I teach Management and Entrepreneurship at Fort Hays State University. I also own and manage a local real estate investment firm. I’m running for City Commission to ensure that the city’s financial position remains strong and to launch a broad, county-wide strategic planning initiative.

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 issue facing Hays (and Ellis County) is the need for a unified strategic direction for our economy, community and residents. As a regional hub, we rely on other communities for our economic prosperity, and regional demographic changes indicate that we need a new strategy to remain competitive in the region, state and world economy. If re-elected to the city commission, I would work with a broad based group of community stakeholders to begin a strategic planning process that identifies a vision for our community and action plans for the next five years.

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.

As a broad based collaborative process, I would bring together stakeholders from every sector in the community, and identify a person or organization that could serve as a lead in this process. We would then begin searching for a facilitator to lead us through the process and start gathering information and feedback from residents.

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Hays USD 489 Board of Education

 

Paul E. Adams, candidate for the Hays USD 489 Board of Education

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

I believe supporting quality public education is one of the most important roles for local government. Without an educated workforce, it is difficult to attract new employers to a community. I believe my background in education, trained as a teacher and currently working to develop the next generation of teachers, has helped me develop a sound and reasonable approach to making decisions to allocate resources for the district. I am seeking the position because I am a member of this community. I care about the future and believe being on the school board provides me the opportunity to help shape the future of our community.

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.

Recruiting and retaining teachers. This is really a statewide question for recruitment and retention. I do not believe there is any specific thing that makes our district unattractive.

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.

A few items that could help: identify or support affordable housing in the community; develop a “grow-your-own” program within the school; consider “signing bonuses” for critical or hard to fill positions; work closely with the university; coordinate earlier retirement declarations in order to be able to commit to earlier hires (we lose because we are late to the game!). I believe part of what can be done is to be more proactive in affirming the value and effort of the teachers to the public. We need to communicate to and for the teachers.

Cole Engel, candidate for the Hays USD 489 Board of Education

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

I am Cole Engel, a lifetime resident of Hays and basically a lifetime educator. I am an accounting professor at Fort Hays State University and am currently serving my 11th year in the position. I hold a PhD in Advanced Accounting and am a licensed CPA in the state of Kansas. I chose to run for the school board mostly because of encouragement from current faculty and staff in the district who are my former teachers. I considered running multiple times before but always had career and educational goals that I first needed to meet before committing to the school board. Additionally, I do not believe in uncontested elections and when I saw that only four people were running for four seats I felt now was the right time. Four other people apparently had similar feelings and now there are nine candidates for four seats. I am hopeful that a new school board composition will help the district move forward in a positive direction. There is nothing more important to a community than its public school system. Quality public schools provide the necessary foundation for everything else. I am not sure I am the best candidate for the Board of Education, but I believe I am a qualified candidate. I am a product of USD 489, graduating from Hays High School in 2002. I believe I was part of the system when it was at its prime. USD 489 provided me the educational foundation necessary for my personal and professional success. It is essential that individuals step up and ensure those same opportunities are afforded to those who follow us.

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.

With two failed bond questions, the hot issue in USD 489 is facilities. I agree there are facilities needs in the district. What remains unresolved is how to prioritize and pay for the necessary improvements. I think I am the only candidate for the Board of Education who has publicly stated that I did not support either of the previous two bond issues. I believe the district has a responsibility to first clearly define the true needs and then clearly communicate them to the voters and taxpayers. Had the district clearly defined true needs and proposed a reasonable bond issue, the public would have supported it. Obviously the district failed in this regard, twice. I also think that K-12 education is a public good and the entire state benefits from an educated citizenry, not just the USD 489 tax base. I worry that if we step-up and pay for this ourselves, then the state legislature will be ‘off the hook’ and will not have to meet their constitutional requirement to adequately fund public education in Kansas. The state has an obligation to fund education and I think it is risky to assume those costs locally. State lawmakers must commit to fully-funding schools. I am not fundamentally opposed to a bond issue, but I am certainly opposed to one that is too big and includes too many ‘wants’ rather than clearly defined ‘needs’ of the students in the district. Additionally, there are many faculty and staff in the district that simply cannot afford an increase in property taxes. It doesn’t seem right that the district would force a bond issue on their very own employees who cannot afford it. While facilities are indeed important, the quality of the faculty and staff is absolutely number one. This leads to another hot issue, which is compensation. I believe the faculty and staff of the public school system have waited their turn and deserve more. I am very thankful for a new governor and hopefully many years of funding increases for K-12 in Kansas.

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.

I am not running for a seat on the Board of Education to bring sweeping changes or to shake anything up. I am running to provide levelheadedness to decision-making and to improve the culture and overall attitude of the board. I am not looking to grandstand or make a name for myself in the community. That type of activity will not make for a successful Board of Education. If elected, I will do my best to faithfully fulfill the duties of the office. If not, I trust my competition will do the same. A new governor with an increased funding commitment, a new superintendent with hopefully fresh ideas, and potentially several new board members with a commitment to working together to improve working conditions and ultimately the success of our students seems like a formula for much future success in USD 489. The Board of Education must make certain that USD 489 is extending the opportunity for a quality education to every child attending public schools in Hays. Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questions.

Alex Herman, candidate for the Hays USD 489 Board of Education

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

I’m a lifelong resident of Hays, Kansas. I want to help my community be a better place. Our school board is facing several difficult issues and I want to help however I can.

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.

Getting a bond approved that is both affordable and meets the standards of the citizens of Hays.

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.

I would assemble and advisory committee who would first listen to the concerns of the citizens, weigh that with the needs of the school district, develop a plan that best fits both demands, and educate the public about it.

Luke Oborny, candidate for the Hays USD 489 Board of Education

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

I have served on the Board for 4 years. I’m seeking re-election because I just don’t feel my job is done. Coming into this position I knew the district was in a tough spot financially, facilities were needing upgrades, and employee morale felt at an all-time low. While we have made great progress in the past four years I don’t feel comfortable moving on yet. I was always taught to return something in better condition than when you borrowed it. Until I feel the district conditions are truly better than when I was elected I will continue to strive to serve.

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.

We need to continue to build trust with our staff and in turn with our community. We have begun the process and I try to be as transparent as possible. Once staff and the community have more faith and trust in the board we will greater success toward a bond to repair/replace aging facilities.

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.

We need to be advocates for our district, supporters of our staff and explain why decisions are made and explain the directional goal/vision.

Allen Park, candidate for the Hays USD 489 Board of Education

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

I have lived, worked, and invested in the Hays community for almost 40 years. As a para, teacher, coach, and school administrator in Hays, I have experience and have acquired insight in many aspects of our school community. My wife and I have chosen to raise our four children in the 489 school district continuously over the last 25 years and counting. Our new school board has the opportunity to work with the community to positively impact our Hays children and families. I want to be part of that team that puts kids and families first.

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.

I would like to work with the school board to reconnect with the Hays community. We need to rebuild trust, encourage involvement and increase communication. Recently multiple failed bond elections and teacher impasses are issues that need to be addressed.

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.

Addressing trust and communication needs to start with genuinely listening to your community. The school board needs to provide an open and inviting culture that values multiple opinions and continuously works to build relationships and a team culture. This will take time and much effort, but the results will help move our district forward.

Tammy Wellbrock, candidate for the Hays USD 489 Board of Education

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

For more than eight years, I promoted civic leadership as part of my Chamber of Commerce duties. Due to employee policy, I was unable to run for any elected position, so when I pursued my own professional consulting business, I knew I needed to “practice what I preached.” Working with a variety of boards, personalities, and the general public helped me develop an extensive and diverse set of skills. From mediation, to political savviness to fiduciary oversight, I have hands-on experience with the more delicate matters that are unique to a Board of Education member. I grew up with my own father serving on the Board at our local school district, and thus believe my own child will benefit greatly by observing me serving in this important volunteer capacity.

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.

While not exactly an easy aspect to change overnight, I would like to see a healthier culture created at the BOE level. The teachers as well as the local public have lost faith that the BOE – as a whole – is serving in both the district and community’s best interests, and this is ultimately hurting the students’ educational environment. I truly believe that lack of trust was a key component to why past bond issues failed.

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.

One way to achieve a higher level of trust and foster a positive culture is to empower those doing the daily work, so that micromanagement by BOE members is eliminated. There are subtle, yet powerful, ways to create greater trust, such as reducing the number of executive sessions that occur. In addition, I will seek to establish consistent processes, facilitate healthier dialogue with stakeholders and encourage greater displays of respect and professionalism between Board members.

The Journal has yet to receive responses to its survey from Hays USD 489 Board of Education candidates Lori Ann Hertel, Craig Pallister, and Jessica Ann Berg Moffitt.

 

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