Archive for Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Jerry Willburn: Handling growth is key

October 27, 2004

Democrat Jerry Willburn, a candidate for the 3rd District Leavenworth County Commission seat, said he sees plenty of differences between his current job and the one he hopes to land next week.

Willburn, 57, is the secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers in Kansas City, Kan. He said the scope of operations of the union and that of the county are essentially the same: Both entail managing multimillion-dollar budgets and numerous employees and it's necessary for both to maintain a high level of service and performance.

Party: Democrat

Age: 57

Address: 20130 Douglas Tonganoxie

It's his work with the Brotherhood, as well as his 16 years of experience as director of the Brotherhood Bank and Trust, that Willburn believes makes him qualified to serve the interests of southern Leavenworth County residents.

"I think I can bring something to the county with my experience," Willburn said. "There are a lot of similarities between the job I have now and the county commission."

The road to the Nov. 2 election wasn't as difficult for Willburn, the lone Democratic candidate in the August primary, as it was for his GOP challenger Dean Oroke, who won the Republican nomination by defeating five other candidates.

But that doesn't mean Willburn hasn't been preparing for assuming public office.

Willburn, who lives just south of Tonganoxie, said he's been a constant figure at the Leavenworth County Courthouse in recent months learning the ins and outs of the county commission. In that time, he's developed a proactive campaign platform of revitalizing county planning procedures.

"I think we need to take the comprehensive plan off the shelf and update it," Willburn said, "It hasn't been upgraded for a while. We need to make that plan more aggressive and more real."

Also, should voters lean his way next week, Willburn said his tenure in public office would include plans to improve and build new infrastructure -- roads, sewers and utilities among others.

"Leavenworth County is going to grow whether anybody wants it to or not," he said. "We have to be ready for when and as its happening."

Willburn faces an uphill challenge Nov. 2.

His opponent, Oroke, is a past commissioner and Willburn concedes he's "not as well known as Dean." However, Willburn said his campaign has taken steps to put his name, and views, before Basehor and Tonganoxie voters.

In addition to yard signs, he's also visited with residents door-to-door and employed a network of local residents to help spread his messages. He believes the groundwork he's laid over the last months, as well as his work experience, will be enough to win on Tuesday.

It's a level-headed approach Willburn will take into the courthouse should his prediction hold true Tuesday night.

"I like to listen to both sides of the argument on a particular question," Willburn said. "I've been in negotiations all my life and I try to get as many facts as I can before making a decision."

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