Candidates converge for City forum

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WATCH THE FULL VIDEO OF THE FORUM HERE

Four Raymore City Council candidates sat in front of a large crowd gathered in the Council Chambers at Raymore City Hall Wednesday night to answer pertinent questions about the city and explain their intentions if elected.

There will be four offices to vote for in the April 8 election; two of the spots are incumbents running unopposed, one spot is a newcomer running unopposed, and the final spot is current Councilmember Sonja Abdelgawad running for reelection against Bob West.

Ward 1 Councilmember Jeffrey Stevens and Ward 2 Councilmember Derek Moorhead are both running for reelection unopposed. Stevens was not present Wednesday night. Jay Holman is also running opposed and he will be filling Robert Piepho’s spot in Ward 3.

When Piepho was asked why he was not seeking another term, he answered, “Since my wife and I are retired and tend to be gone more than I believe that a conscientious Councilmember should be, I had hoped that someone of Mr. Holman’s expertise would come forward, and he did.”

Holman has spent five years on Raymore’s Planning and Zoning Commission and two years on Raymore’s Parks Board in the past. The candidate graduated from Northwest Missouri State University and was a member of the United States Air Force. Holman moved to the Kansas City area in 1990 and worked in the Belton Police Department before joining Union Pacific Railroad who he works for currently. He works in the field of public safety within Union Pacific’s police department for the Central Region.

The other newcomer, Bob West, has lived in Raymore’s fourth ward for 14 years. He was also in the United States Air Force, retiring from Whiteman Air Force Base. West holds a Master’s degree in criminal science and is the president of KCPI Security, a private investigation firm. He is also a member of the Optimist Club.

West is running against Sonja Abdelgawad, who has spent two years on the City Council in Raymore. She holds two Bachelor’s Degrees and works for the Belton School District. Abdelgawad is a PTA member in the Raymore-Peculiar schools and works with Ray-Pec’s C.A.N. Program and their Relay for Life event.

The first question of the night asked the candidates what issues Raymore faces in connection with their rapid population growth and what they could do as Councilmembers to address them.

Each of the candidates touched on infrastructure – roads, sidewalks, sewers, etc. – as being key to handling the population rise. Current Councilmember Moorhead referred to the North Cass Parkway developments as being instrumental in aiding growth. He also stated that the City’s Growth Management Plan and their “fiscally conservative” budget have put Raymore on the right track.

Councilmember Sonja Abdelgawad answers a question Wednesday night while her competitor, Bob West, looks on.

Councilmember Sonja Abdelgawad answers a question Wednesday night as her competitor, Bob West, looks on.

Holman agreed with Moorhead, saying the North Cass Parkway developments will cause a population rise similar to the early 2000s. He said that the people will “come all at once” and it will be Raymore’s “next boom.”

Councilmember Abdelgawad stated that one of the biggest positives the Council can do is send a message of consistency and responsibility to potential businesses looking at Raymore as a future home. She expressed the need for a stable body in the Council so business owners know what to expect.

Bob West, whose answers were often more succinct than the other candidates, echoed the same thoughts from the other three candidates and said that Raymore’s growth has been handled well so far. He said that Raymore’s growth is what originally interested his family and his business to move to Raymore 14 years ago.

The next question asked the candidates what businesses they would like to see come to Raymore in the future.

West expressed the need for light industrial jobs. “Manufacturing would really help Raymore,” he said, adding that proper tax incentives and the labor force would be helpful.

Abdelgawad said that the “number one thing” she hears is the need for more restaurants. Once again, the current Councilmember stated that a stable and non-political body in the Council would send the right message to any prospective business.

Holman told the crowd that Raymore needs light industrial and manufacturing jobs.
“But food is where my heart is,” he stated as laughter was heard across the chamber. He said that Raymore has a good mix of businesses as it is right now and that Raymore “has a lot to offer as a city.”

Moorhead said that he feels as though Raymore has enough convenience businesses right now and that manufacturing, industrial, and commercial businesses are what the city needs. He also stated that the Council’s job is to make sure Economic Development Director Gene Thompson has the tools he needs to bring businesses in.

Next, the candidates were asked about the hot-button issue of a civic center in Raymore’s city limits. Each of the responses was favorable toward a building that would connect residents and there was little variation in the responses.

West stated that he is concerned with the funding for it but that there is “certainly a place for it.”

Holman said there is a “demand and need for one,” but added that Raymore needs to “offer something unique,” as he referenced the upcoming feasibility study that will provide the city with more information.

Moorhead spoke of the positives that would come from a civic center, specifically using weddings, high school plays, and art shows as examples of ways that the community could be connected in one space.

Abdelgawad has supported each measure for a civic center during her time in the City Council and expressed the need for Raymore to offer something different than High Blue Wellness Center in Belton.

The final question of the night revealed much about each candidate’s approach to issues and how he or she would be accountable to the people. The question asked how each candidate would communicate with his or her constituents if elected so that they would act in accordance with the residents’ best interests.

Abdelgawad listed several ways that she is currently connected to the residents of her ward. She is the only current Councilmember with a Facebook page devoted to city updates. Abdelgawad also stated that she has made her phone number available on all of her campaign information.

West, Abdelgawad’s competitor, did not provide details but said he is available through e-mail and the “current batch of social media.” He stated that as a small business owner he deals with people all of the time so this would be no different.

Councilmember Moorhead explained that a year ago he committed to meeting with anyone who contacted him about an issue. He said that he has gone to the front door of his constituents to meet with them face-to-face and he will continue to do so. Holman said he would do the same, expressing the importance of meeting with people.

At the end, each candidate was given a minute to state anything they would like on that platform.

Moorhead said that even though he was running unopposed, he still feels as though that he has to “earn everyone’s vote.” Holman echoed the same thought and pledged his best effort.

Councilmember Abdelgawad stated that she is looking forward to continue her learning experience on the Council.

“I promise to do my best to represent the citizens of Raymore and Ward 4,” she said.

Bob West said he sees himself as the “newcomer” and that his problem-solving abilities and experience with groups would help the Council “advance the cause toward community and togetherness.”

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