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Dealing with finances a key issue for Newton City Commission candidates

Getting the city’s financial house in order and a desire to enlist residents in setting a shared vision for the community’s future are two of the issues animating runs for Newton’s city commission in the Nov. 5 general election.

Seven candidates, including two incumbents, are seeking terms on the commission. Two candidates will win four-year terms, while one candidate will win a two-year term. The Journal received responses to its candidate survey from four candidates in the race.

Read more about each of the candidates who responded in their own words below. To learn about candidates running for the Newton school board, please click on the jump link below.

Update: Click here for Tuesday’s unofficial election results.

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.

Click here to view survey responses of candidates for the Newton USD 373 Board of Education

Newton City Commission

Lance Gormley, candidate for Newton City Commission

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

My name is Lance Gormley. I am 37 years old and am a political science major. I have lived in my community for the better part of 25 years. I have grown from a youth, to a young man, and into adulthood, even to have and be raising my own children in this community. I look for opportunities to make personal investments into Newton and this seemed to be the appropriate step given our current situation.

Newton, Kansas, has suffered greatly under poor management. We have had many things outside of our control that have led to higher taxes and failed attempts at growth. Some things have been within our control and these issues need attention. I love this community and will spend the rest of my life here. My hope is that my children will also decide to reside here, possibly choosing to raise their own children here. With the challenges we face today, the trajectory we seem to be headed, and the lack of input from a younger generation when making decisions, poor directing of our city’s course over the next few generations will only cause this problem to get worse. Our city commission in Newton is more of a volunteer position with practically no pay and very little positive encouragement. My hope is to change this going forward to include a unified Newton who is proud to stand behind their city and the direction that we are going.

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.

Fiscal accountability in city management. Over the last few years, the commission has been directed by a city management team that has led to less then desired results with no accountability in these failures. The continued approach in my opinion has been to continue down this path of more spending to cover failed attempts at growth to try and create more growth. The city management has continued with the assumption that if we provide financial incentives for different endeavors and are just patient enough, these will pay themselves off while stimulating our economy. I believe on a fundamental level that this type of continued intervention by public entities stifles private ownership and will continue to do so if we don’t move away from this thinking and redirect our path.

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.

Encourage citizen participation. The only way elected officials know what their constituents desire is to be an approachable individual where people can express their desires, concerns, and direction they believe their town should go. If we had an open door policy that is encouraged by city officials, then we would be more transparent. People would express their thoughts and then an open line of communication can be established with the elected officials (all of them) and the citizens they represent.

Digitizing commission meetings are one approach I hope to accomplish so that all individuals in the community can have access to all information without having to be in person at the meeting or getting the highlighted version the citizens of Newton are fortunate enough to receive through a few pay-for news outlets or a controlled flow of information from city officials themselves. I don’t believe that if a citizen wants to be participatory, then the burden is on them. I believe that as the elected governing body, we should make every possible feasible attempts at communicating all information to all citizens in every avenue available. The burden truly rests on the elected governing body.

Rodney C. Kreie, candidate for Newton City Commission

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

I am running because I care about the future of Newton. I was actively involved in my hometown before moving here 10 years ago and don’t believe people should complain about their community unless they are willing to get involved with solutions that make their community a better place to live.

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.

Long-range planning. There are lots of working parts to a city budget. The city does a fairly good job recognizing capital improvements that need to be done, but I have seen little evidence of any plans that might increase chances to fund community amenities that would increase our chances of getting better looks from people and businesses that are looking to locate in the area.

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’ve made some progress already – as a commissioner filling the unexpired term of a commissioner that died with 18 months left in his term. We have stretched our financial outlook to five years. But really, that isn’t enough. I think that management is realizing that the commissioners are going to require more long term numbers to make better decisions.

When you plan for 10 years from now, using the capital improvement plan – calculating debt service for new projects that are bonded, add in new tax revenue from tax abatements that will expire, take off debt service when last payments are made, add in the cost of living adjustments, etc., and project it out 10 years, it helps you see that you might never have a new swimming pool, baseball fields or library unless you decrease operational spending. At a minimum, it forces you to look at – and prioritize – your current levels of service vs amenities the community might want.

Decisions like this are hard to make. The long term effects of lowering service levels or going without adequate amenities can both influence future growth of the community and communities have to grow so the growth pays for new services and amenities rather than just asking the taxpayers to pay more.

Clinton McBroom, candidate for Newton City Commission

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

I was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. When I was 17, I enlisted in the United States Army with the pure desire to serve my nation. I did not know where it would take me or exactly what I would be doing. I just wanted to serve. While in the military and after, I was given the opportunity to go to college, I earned a bachelor’s in Christian Ministries, a master’s in Ministries, and a masters of business administration. After leaving the military, I began my career in business and transitioned later to ministry, where I am now the pastor of a church in Newton.. Since a young age, I always wanted to serve people and this country. Recognizing a need in Newton for solid, grounded, and equipped leaders I decided to run for City Commission. My service to this nation, the church, the community, and my education will give me the tools needed to serve this 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.

Due to the devastating impact financial choices of the past are having on the city today, I see the need to pay off back-loaded debt as one of the primary goals. It will be very difficult for this city to move beyond the wall of debt if there is not debt paid down. Of course, paying off debt will also mean bringing the budget to balance. We will have to work hard in operating within reasonable means financially. Paying off old debt, being conservative in spending and borrowing today, will allow us to move forward to have a plan and a vision for the city that allows us a basis for decisions.

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.

Anytime a budget is not operating within its means, the quickest solution is to reduce spending. Steps are already in place this year to approve and move forward with a budget for the next year. As the new year rolls around, should I be elected, I will work toward reducing spending in areas that are being overspent in. Additionally, we must be very careful moving forward of bonding new projects that will require payments later. We need to take care of current debt before we consider special projects in the future. In situations like this, I am always reminded of the saying, “You cannot borrow yourself out of debt.” I will work toward reducing spending and increasing revenue for the city. There are opportunities that will allow us to increase current revenue without putting an additional burden on current taxpayers.

Richard E. Stinnett, candidate for Newton City Commission

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

After high school, I joined the U.S. Army and served honorably around the globe in both combat and peace time assignments. Since moving to Newton in 2012, I have been involved throughout the community. Much of my community involvement revolves around cars, the arts, and support of nonprofit organizations such as the United Way and Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

I bring to Newton a special set of leadership skills which I have honed through ever progressing responsibilities in the military and civilian sectors. After serving over 13 years in the US Army, I set my sights on a career as an IT consultant. I, like many others, became caught up in a round of layoffs that left me with that horrible feeling of uncertainty. I was able to use the GI Bill to return to school and obtained my bachelors and master’s degrees while working full time. 

Since 2005, I have been at my current employer Business Technology Career Opportunities, a nonprofit corporation in Wichita providing competitive employment to individuals with and without disabilities. I have served as president since 2016. I believe that I can serve Newton proud and be willing to ask the tough questions. I also believe that if we watch the cents, the dollars will follow.

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.

Newton has a declining tax base. Jobs are only half the equation; we need to build a community where people want to live. This means enticing companies to bring jobs, build affordable housing, and amenities that people want, such as schools, parks, libraries, restaurants and entertainment. If we build a community that people want to move to, the jobs and amenities will follow.

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.

Mobilization has to start with establishing a shared vision: what does the community want, and what are they willing to do to help make it happen? We need to take a step back and build a long-term vision that the community supports, work towards that mission and measure the success along the way.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Newton City Commission candidates Glen Davis, Antonio E. Sandate and Christina S. Murphy.

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

Newton USD 373 Board of Education

Allen Jantz, candidate for Newton USD 373 Board of Education

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

I have been a lifelong educator and volunteer working with youth, serving in a variety of roles in education. I have seen education as a student and parent, as a teacher and school administrator, as well as a policy maker. I have served youth in a variety of capacities through church organizations and currently am a teacher of teachers (i.e., college professor in teacher education).

I am running for school board because I believe that I have the knowledge, skills, and understandings necessary for a board member to make decisions based on fact and reason. I bring a certain maturity to the board which will be lost at the end of my term (four candidates are leaving office, two are seeking re-election, and the remaining three members have two years of experience each). I do not have primary issue that I am running on, however, I do have a passion for public education and helping all children gain an education to help them be successful at the next stage in their lives.

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 I don’t have a single issue that propels my candidacy, I believe that all public (and private) entities should strive to get better each and every day, even if in little ways. Currently, I believe that there is a segment of the population that would articulate that they are dissatisfied with communication and trust. Those would be issues that I believe could always be improved, however, I also believe that these are very individual issues and require, in many cases, one-on-one attention. Once trust is lost, it is difficult to gain it back, even if it is a matter of perception. However, I believe communication at all levels will help to increase trust and understanding.

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.

Communication and trust take time, commitment, and effort. It is important to maintain an environment where all opinions are sought and respected. Individuals must be given the opportunity to be heard. I believe that maintaining public comment times during board meetings is important. I believe that appointing committee/council members that represent diverse viewpoints should also be the norm. Increasing opportunities for individuals and groups to be heard is important. I also believe that it is important for the board and for administration to actively listen to what constituents are saying (without trying to formulate a response). In many instances, I believe that the district should make available advocates to bring concerns to administration and help to resolve issues. I also believe that our schools should practice restorative practices to help students experience success. I believe that opening communication and resolving issues will help with issues of trust appropriately.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Newton USD 373 Board of Education candidates Matt Treaster, Mallory Morton, Melissa Schreiber, Andy Harder, Nathan Dominguez, Carmina Suter and Luke Edwards.