It was standing room only as candidates for the Harrisonville School Board, Board of Aldermen, and the office of Mayor answered questions at the candidate forum Monday night. The event was moderated by Don Peters, Executive Director of the Cass County Historical Society. The questions, some of which had been prepared before hand and some of which those in attendance wrote, were read by Obie Carl, Executive Director of the Harrisonville Chamber of Commerce and LynnDa Roberts, Director of Member Services for the Harrisonville Chamber of Commerce. The time keeper for the event was Harrisonville’s Public Information Officer, Sheryl Stanley. The first group to take the stage was candidates for the School Board.
Due to the recent actions of the School Board and the turmoil that has been created by the board, the board has lost much of the public trust and confidence. What needs to be done to restore this trust, confidence and dignity to the board?
Kathy Dains: We need to work together and open the lines of communication. The school board needs to find a way to work with the community and not against it.
Dallas Register: What has been going on has been sensationalized rather than understanding what really happened. We need to get involved and step up and support the board.
R.J. Knox: Establishing an open line of communication with the community will be essential to rebuilding that trust.
Tiffany Klassen: Lines of communication seems to be the biggest issue. The community needs to feel that they can talk to the board and receive answers. * Tiffany had to leave due to a prior commitment.
If you could select only one thing, what do you think is the most important responsibility of the school board?
Kathy Dains: Long term goals, direction, and vision of the school. The students need to be college ready when they graduate.
Dallas Register: The children are first. There needs to be community involvement in running the district.
R.J. Knox: The children are first. Also to help support the people they hire to run the day-to-day operations of the school while looking out for the long range benefit of the district.
Public information shows it cost the School Board approximately $174,620.75 to sever Dr. McDonald’s contract. Do you think the money should have been used more wisely, such as educating our children?
Kathy Dains: Yes the money could have been used for students but she did not feel qualified to answer that without further information.
Dallas Register: Yes the money could have been used for students but felt like he is not in a position to make a judgment one way or the other.
R.J. Knox: Yes the money could have been used for other educational purposes. Why would you pay someone past their resignation point?
If elected, how will you strengthen your background knowledge of school finance, school law, testing requirements and benchmarks, and any other initiatives you will be faced with overseeing?
Kathy Dains: Her background as a school secretary gives her a good foundation and she would pull from others knowledge and use them as resources.
Dallas Register: Online resources and School Board School.
R.J. Knox: Required training as well as training offered by the Missouri School Board Association. He would also pull from his business background as well as the knowledge of other board members.
How do you feel about the School Board going around the Superintendent to change contracts and assignments of faculty and staff?
Kathy Dains: It is the School Board’s responsibility to hire and fire employees, but without the information that the board had she did not feel like she could give an adequate answer to the question.
Dallas Register: It is never to good for an organization to go outside the chain of authority.
R.J. Knox: Do not know what kind of conversations went on behind close doors. The board is supposed to hire a Superintendent to handle those kind of situations.
As a board member, what steps will you take to make sure you are accessible to the community?
Kathy Dains: Email and social media as well as staying active in the community.
Dallas Register: Email but if you present a problem, please present at least one solution as well.
R.J. Knox: Stay active in the community and whatever means are necessary.
There have been several articles in the Kansas City Star and the local newspaper questioning board procedure. How would you ensure that board procedures are followed with ethics and integrity?
Kathy Dains: Training and practice that training as well as relying on the school board secretary.
Dallas Register: Its impossible for anybody to follow all the regulations placed on the School Board.
R.J. Knox: Just doing what is right and following the intent of the law as well as utilizing the knowledge of the School Board secretary.
What is your vision for our school district in preparing students to enter the technical world in which we live?
Kathy Dains: Give them a basic knowledge and teach them how to adapt with the changing technology.
Dallas Register: Technology has drained kids of creativity. There has to be a balance between technology and basic skills for creativity.
R.J. Knox: One-to-One program and doing the best we can to help them learn and adapt.
Next the two candidates for Mayor took the floor.
Running for public office can be a grueling experience that few people engage in on a whim. Who first approached and supported your run and who has financially supported your run?
Brian Hasek: Friends told him he would make a good mayor. Friends and family as well as personal finances.
Doug Meyer: Felt he needed to give back to the community. Friends and family as well as personal finances.
Please take a moment and tell us how your leadership as the Mayor will differ from the previous years of Mayor Wood’s leadership.
Brian Hasek: Will get out into the community and engage with businesses.
Doug Meyer: Shocked and saddened that we have not done as good a job of communication and will knock on doors on a regular basis.
Whether deserved or not deserved, Harrisonville has a reputation as being hard to build and start ‘mom and pop’ businesses. What will you do to rectify this?
Brian Hasek: Codes need to be looked at again. Look at the issues that businesses face when they first open and give that list to new businesses so they can address them before hand.
Doug Meyer: Only 11 of 25 permits have been used. Ask realtors what needs to happen.
What do you believe is Harrisonville’s greatest asset and how would you work to sustain and improve that asset?
Brian Hasek: Water. Getting out from under Kansas City will allow us to set our own rates based on our needs.
Doug Meyer: Citizens. Citizens Action Group needs to get engaged again and find the next 50 objectives.
Reading the paper and social media, I have seen vague accusations and rumors. What I have not seen from candidates is what they intend to do in office. Be specific and exact. Please state what ordinances and policies you would initiate or change and how.
Brian Hasek: Housing drives our economy. We need to meet with builders and contractors and ask why they are not building in Harrisonville.
Doug Meyer: Industry needs must be addressed. Realtors need to give an inventory of places for sale. Activities and recreation need to be addressed, but the community will have to get involved with that.
As mayor, from whom will you seek advice or input when making key decisions for the city?
Brian Hasek: The aldermen, city staff, city administrator, and people of the city.
Doug Meyer: Citizens and aldermen.
Do you support the current efforts to revitalize the downtown square?
Brian Hasek: Yes. Would like to see tours of the square. Need to make sure that there are not road blocks being put up for investors.
Doug Meyer: Yes. Would love to city activity again. Momentum is going in the right direction.
What do you want the city of Harrisonville to look like in five years? What projects would you support to see your dream come true?
Brian Hasek: Must increase the number of homes available in a variety of price ranges. Need to help current businesses stay in business. Would request a third party to do a state audit of the city.
Doug Meyer: Need new businesses but really need community involvement and participation. Would also like to see a more recreation friendly city.
Board of Alderman Questions and Responses
Running for public office can be a grueling experience that few people engage in on a whim. Who first approached you and supported your run and who has financially supported your run?
Brad Bockelman (Ward 1): Has been a resident for more than 40 years and felt he needed to get involved at the last minute; personally financed.
Judy Bowman (Ward 1): Personal decision to get involved and mostly personally financed.
Marcia Milner (Ward 2): Life long resident and was appointed to the Board to fill Donna Pfaustch’s position; personally financed.
Cindy Tompkins (Ward 2): Was approached by several people and encouraged to run; personally financed.
Gary Kidd (Ward 3): Feels like he has more to offer; personally financed.
Bret Reece (Ward 3): Looking to continue to do good work for the City; personally financed.
Josh Stafford (Ward 4): Approached by a group of parents concerned by what was happening on the School Board and encouraged to run; personally financed.
Kara Wilson (Ward 4): A life long resident who decided to do it on her own to help Harrisonville be what it once was; personally financed.
What personality qualities and traits do you have that will make you an effective alderman?
Brad Bockelman (Ward 1): He is an avid researcher. Tries to find the right answer for every issue he researches.
Judy Bowman (Ward 1): A compassionate, empathetic listener who is also comfortable with conflict.
Marcia Milner (Ward 2): Active in the community, very opinionated, but willing to listen to staff.
Cindy Tompkins (Ward 2): It’s not about her opinion; will bring freshness to the ward.
Gary Kidd (Ward 3): He knows how to work with people.
Bret Reece (Ward 3): Honest. Don’t trust anyone who says they can fix all the problems.
Josh Stafford (Ward 4): Strive to communicate well and use background to market the city.
Kara Wilson (Ward 4): Eager to be more active and involved.
If elected do you come in with a personal agenda that would prevent you from giving proper consideration to matters related to the city as a whole?
Brad Bockelman (Ward 1): Wants to work towards financial responsibility for the city.
Judy Bowman (Ward 1): No higher political aspirations and no personal agenda. It’s about what’s important to the city.
Marcia Milner (Ward 2): Everyone has an agenda. She wants to see revitalization take place.
Cindy Tompkins (Ward 2): Will work for the concerns of the citizens of ward 2 and then the other citizens of Harrisonville. Will work with other aldermen as a team.
Gary Kidd (Ward 3): He has more vision for the city.
Bret Reece (Ward 3): He has an agenda to make Harrisonville into the great town it was when he grew up.
Josh Stafford (Ward 4): He does have an agenda to make Harrisonville the type of place where generations will want to grow up.
Kara Wilson (Ward 4): No personal agenda, but the needs and wants of her constituents.
As an alderman, from whom will you seek advice or input when making key decisions for the city?
Brad Bockelman (Ward 1): People in the community that are knowledgeable on the subject.
Judy Bowman (Ward 1): Citizens of the ward, aldermen team, and mayor.
Marcia Milner (Ward 2): Utilize the survey results and input from the entire community.
Cindy Tompkins (Ward 2): School district, citizens of her ward, aldermen, and mayor.
Gary Kidd (Ward 3): People, city staff, and community leaders.
Bret Reece (Ward 3): Citizen’s satisfaction survey, aldermen, mayor and city staff.
Josh Stafford (Ward 4): Constituents, aldermen, mayor, city staff, and cities to the north of us in Cass County.
Kara Wilson (Ward 4): Citizens, aldermen, mayor, and city employees.
The city is on track to enact a 44% water rate increase in the next 13 months for the water treatment plant upgrades. Do you believe that this should have been handled in a different manner than such a drastic rate increase?
Brad Bockelman (Ward 1): He would research until he knows the answer, but probably yes it could have been handled differently.
Judy Bowman (Ward 1): Being out from under KC water is the best thing we ever did.
Marcia Milner (Ward 2): Knows a lot of thought process went into the decision and she knows that the aging facility was an issue.
Cindy Tompkins (Ward 2): She would have looked at all aspects of it before a decision was made.
Gary Kidd (Ward 3): The second rate increase is not needed.
Bret Reece (Ward 3): Has been working on it for the past 6 years. He supported getting rid of KC contract and though up front it’s pricey, it will be cheaper in the long run.
Josh Stafford (Ward 4): Was not educated enough on the issue to give an adequate answer.
Kara Wilson (Ward 4): Did know enough to give an answer to that.
As an alderman, can you or should you support a board decision that passed even though you opposed it?
Brad Bockelman (Ward 1): All eight have individual ideas but the group as a whole would make a decision that he could support.
Judy Bowman (Ward 1): Dialogue is good. For the unity and harmony of the board it’s important for the good of the citizens that we come together and support decisions.
Marcia Milner (Ward 2): You have to do the research and listen; the board is not always going to agree.
Cindy Tompkins (Ward 2): She wants to be a team player, but will still have opposing decisions at times.
Gary Kidd (Ward 3): He could not support something that is not good for the citizens.
Bret Reece (Ward 3): He supports the democratic process.
Josh Stafford (Ward 4): Do not blindly follow; educate citizens on why a decision is made.
Kara Wilson (Ward 4): You can’t please everybody everyday, but it is a team effort.
What needs to be changed to stimulate growth in Harrisonville and what would your approach be?
Brad Bockelman (Ward 1): Change codes.
Judy Bowman (Ward 1): Keep enrollment up in school and to do that you need more houses and to do that you need to have more jobs.
Marcia Milner (Ward 2): Infrastructure needs to expand to handle more businesses.
Cindy Tompkins (Ward 2): Find out what is keeping the square from growing.
Gary Kidd (Ward 3): At 9.46%, Harrisonville has a much lower later growth rate than other neighboring cities. Why? Change starts at the top and works its way down.
Bret Reece (Ward 3): We need measured growth and higher paying jobs in Harrisonville.
Josh Stafford (Ward 4): We need more housing and commercial business; develop a ‘gateway’ idea for the city.
Kara Wilson (Ward 4): Codes need to be revamped to make it easier to build in Harrisonville.
What do you want the City of Harrisonville to look like in five years? What projects would you support to see your dream come true?
Brad Bockelman (Ward 1): Construction needs to happen. The city leaders need to be financially responsible and restore trust in our city government.
Judy Bowman (Ward 1): Citizens need a renewed hope that will give them pride that will translate to better care of property.
Marcia Milner (Ward 2): Wants the charming town of Harrisonville of the 1970’s back.
Cindy Tompkins (Ward 2): Time to move forward. Would look into broadband fiber loop and creative ideas for the square.
Gary Kidd (Ward 3): Harrisonville used to be the place to come. We need to get back to the roots and increase our population.
Bret Reece (Ward 3): We need a safe, vibrant, healthy community and continue growth at the right level.
Josh Stafford (Ward 4): Get the square back up and going. Remodel old homes. We want Mayberry with a lot more businesses
Kara Wilson (Ward 4): Square needs to get back to the way it was. Get back to basics and revitalize the city as a whole.