I officially filed as a candidate for Sedgwick County Commission on January 18th, 2022. From that launch point I determined myself to spend the next four to six months taking as many meetings as I could – people, organizations, businesses – just to listen to the thoughts and needs of the people in our community.
It has been a valuable learning experience.
This campaign has shaped me in many ways, but ultimately it has helped to strengthen and refine my purpose for running. I want to contend for the health of our community. On many levels, it’s painfully obvious that we have significant challenges facing Sedgwick County and a return to health is going to take a collaborative, wide-scale effort.
When we talk about contending for the health of our community, we focus the conversation around four specific areas:
The core functions of Sedgwick County government are centered around public works, public health and public safety. County government is shaped to behave differently than municipal, city governments and yet the distinctive lines of differentiation are blurrier today than ever. The result? Our county is overextended and ineffective in many of its core functions. Here are some examples:
- EMS lost nearly 1/3 of its workforce since 2018, resulting in inadequate response times to emergency situations and unstaffed stations.
- County Fire morale is at a historic low. The wages of County Firefighters are uncompetitive and the future of the Fire District has been a frequent topic of conversation during the ’23 budget cycle.
- The Sheriff’s Office is down 112 deputies while simultaneously combatting surging crime in our community. A large proportion of the nearly 1600 inmates at the County Jail are being combined into pods and monitored via video surveillance. The declining situation at our Jail is now the top issue facing our Sherriff and county leadership.
- Comcare, our mental health provider for Sedgwick County, is down nearly 200 full time positions in the midst of growing mental health and substance abuse needs.
Our community is in crisis. As Commissioner, I will refocus our priorities on stabilizing the core functions of county government in order to bring efficiency and health back to our local government.
We are in a pivotal season in our community. As inflation soars and the needs of our people continue to grow, we will soon be faced with difficult decisions on how we best perform county operations in the near future – Tax increases or economic growth. As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I know the importance of a growing, healthy economy. I believe we can grow ourselves out of some of the major problems plaguing our community without levying a heavier tax burden through increased property taxes and fees. As a County Commissioner, I will promote regional competitiveness, responsible taxation, industry diversification and a thriving startup culture. A healthy economy directly influences the quality of life and opportunity for all people in a community, and I have the acumen to help lead us into a new generation of growth in Sedgwick County.
People are hurting in our community. We are experiencing a mental health and substance crisis unlike anything we have ever dealt with in Sedgwick County, and yet the strategic plan to contend for the health of our people is lacking. I am determined to bring resources and deliver much needed reform to the problem. My plan prioritizes better collaboration with community partners, strategic initiatives in our downtown core, and a more clearly communicated approach that engages the broad base of support that will be needed to combat a very complex situation.
The lack of civility and poor leadership has stagnated progress in this community. One of the driving factors that moved me into this role as a candidate is the declining and toxic relationships on display from local elected leaders. It’s not reflective of the broader community; we can and should expect better. As a County Commissioner, I am prepared to lead with integrity, promote collaboration and advocate as a voice of hope for our citizens that have lost confidence in the decency and effectiveness of our local government.
As I speak at events and talk to people in our community, I get incredible feedback and encouragement around our message of advocacy for a healthier community. As the November 8th election approaches, I grow more hopeful by the day that I will have an opportunity to put these plans into motion.
We need leadership – and I’m asking for your support.