Six county commission candidates square off
With just a few days before Tuesday's primary election, a crowded field of Republican candidates vying for the Leavenworth County Commission Third District seat jockeyed Monday night for last-minute support from voters.
Each of the six candidates promoted their campaign platforms during a public forum at the Riverfront Community Center in Leavenworth. One of the six candidates will emerge from the Aug. 3 primary to face Democratic challenger Jerry Wilburn in the general election Nov. 2.
Incumbent Joe Daniels Jr. followed through on his campaign vow in 2000 to hold office for only one term when he announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.
During the forum, each candidate discussed ideas and answered questions regarding the expansion of county commission membership, the possible hiring of a county administrator, taxes and county services. Below is a recap of each candidate and issues they addressed during the forum.
Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
Brauer, a resident of "greater Linwood," said the county commission has made little impact in the southern portion of the county and he's never been satisfied with the county's elected officials.
"The money never rolls south," Brauer said.
"(There is) a 150-year history of the county commission and none of them have fixed the roads yet."
Brauer said he would vote to hold the line on taxes and preach fiscal responsibility.
"I hope you decide I'd make a good Leavenworth County commissioner and you vote for me," he said.
On expanding the county commission and hiring a county administrator or manager: "Until you get there and see the workload, how do you know?" he asked.
Dean, a Basehor resident, said she spent 11 years working with the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) and stressed the importance of the county building comprehensive programs with other agencies.
"We're not an island out here," Dean said. "There are people around here we can work with to create cost-effective programs."
Dean said she is a fiscal conservative who wants to hold the line on taxes. She called the campaign "the best experience of my life," and that she would try to make residents quality of life the best it can be if elected.
On hiring a county administrator or manager, Dean said hiring a financial manager, or someone who understands "there are a lot more ways to do things cost effectively" may be a better solution.
Dean said she is not in favor of expanding the county commission because "three people are sufficient" and that more members would add another layer of cost to county government and the taxpayers.
Gallion, a Basehor resident, said with the booming growth invading Leavenworth County in general and the county's southern portion specifically, it's important the county start putting infrastructure -- that is, streets and sewers -- into place to handle the expanded population.
To help offset the cost of those projects so the burden doesn't fall entirely on the taxpayer, county officials must place a renewed emphasis on economic development by encouraging and recruiting all types of businesses to Leavenworth County, Gallion said.
Gallion said his experience as a financial adviser and stockbroker would prove an asset to county government should voters elect him as their representative.
Gallion said he was not in favor of expanding the county commission at this time, but "as the county grows it may become more necessary." He added that he would be in favor of hiring a county administrator or manager if the manager acquired grant money to offset the cost of his or her salary.
Oroke, a Tonganoxie resident, is a former Leavenworth County commissioner, serving from 1985 to 1989. He ran unsuccessfully for the county commission in 1992 and 1996.
Oroke said his tenure on the county commission included lowering taxes in three of the four years he was in office. He also said the county's five-year plan does not include enough public works projects.
"We should have 15 to 20 projects in the pipeline for a five-year plan," he said.
Oroke said economic growth and fiscal responsibility form the backbone of his campaign platform.
"I am committed to putting Leavenworth County first ... as I have in the past," Oroke said.
On expanding the county commission: "Three (commissioners) are enough to represent the citizens of the county," he said. He said he favors hiring a county administrator or manager because services, employee pay scales and other items can be "done with good management."
Rahjes, a Tonganoxie resident, said rapid development has placed Leavenworth County at a crossroads and elected officials must begin deciding "how do we want to embrace it."
He said Leavenworth County needs a strong, unified voice to help "control its own destiny" and maintain the quality of life for residents.
On expanding the county commission: Rahjes used Johnson County as example of what he would be in favor of as elected official. "As the population grew, (voters) approved additional commissioners. I think that's the right way to do it for us."
He favors hiring a county administrator.
"We owe it to you the citizen to have a county administrator," said Rahjes, adding that Leavenworth County is the sixth-largest county in population in the state but is one of the few counties in the top 10 without a non-elected administrator.
Torneden, a Linwood resident, said road improvement, fiscal responsibility and zoning issues comprise much of his platform. He said bringing government back to the people of the district is also an important aspiration.
"I'm not running for myself," he said. "I'm here to represent the people and their interests."
He also said he would seek to hold the line or lower the tax burden for residents by attempting to acquire state and federal grants.
"Everyone can't afford higher taxes," he said.
Torneden said he believed people should vote on expanding the county commission and hiring a county administrator or manager.
"I strongly believe the people should have a voice in it," he said.