Archive for Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In McLouth, 8 candidates vying for council seats

February 21, 2007

Eight certainly is enough in the McLouth City Council election race.

Three seats are up for grabs, as two incumbents plan to run for re-election. But six challengers also have filed, meaning voters have a whopping eight candidates to choose from to fill three of the council's six seats.

"This doesn't happen very often," city clerk Ruth Edmonds said. "Normally there's probably maybe a couple."

A primary will be conducted Tuesday, in which the eight candidates will be whittled down to six for the general election, which will be April 3.

The ballot will show nine candidates, because Tom Burns filed but later withdrew his candidacy.

Here is a candidate-by-candidate profile of residents running for McLouth City Council. Incumbent Bob Ryan and another candidate, Curtis Woodhead, could not be reached for comment.

George Bowen Jr.

George Bowen Jr. is making his first run at politics.

The 55-year-old McLouth resident admits he's a novice, but he's trying to get his name out in the community as he runs for McLouth City Council.

Bowen said he sent letters out to McLouth residents to get them more acquainted with him.

"I just wanted to be more in the community," Bowen said.

Bowen said he has lived in the McLouth school district since 1968. He and his wife, Trudy, moved inside the city limits in 1999. Together, they have six children.

A native of the Bonner Springs area, Bowen is retired from SBC Communications. He said his job was in Kansas City, so he's usually had a "low profile" in McLouth.

He now works part-time with Meals on Wheels, so he's getting to know more and more of his neighbors.

Bowen didn't have any specific issues he wanted to tackle if he were elected

"I just kind of want to monitor the costs and work in harmony with our city employees," Bowen said. "Just basically be involved. I don't have any ax to grind or anything."

And, the first-time political hopeful said the campaign trail has been encouraging.

"It seems like everybody's been very positive," Bowen said.

Myra Harwood

Myra Harwood is a McLouth native who is concerned about the city's future.

A "third or fourth-generation" McLouth resident, Harwood said she's running for the council because she's worried about McLouth's future.

"Just concern for the city and where we're headed and where we could be headed," Harwood said. "I just think we need to be well-prepared to go into an uncertain future.

"Are we prepared for homeland security, like pandemic flu? How would we deal with things like that? Do we have a budget that's ready to look at things like that?"

The 43-year-old is employed as a registered nurse at St. John Hospital in Leavenworth.

Sharon Lobb Johnson

It's the city's finances that concern incumbent Sharon Lobb Johnson.

Johnson has served on the McLouth City Council for 2 1/2 years.

"I think we have a tremendous amount of expenditures for the amount of revenue we have coming in," said the 47-year-old Johnson. "I think that's going to be very problematic if we don't get that under control very shortly."

Johnson is a 1977 graduate of McLouth High School. She works in Topeka as a policy analyst and researcher for Kansas Health Policy Authority.

One thing that worries Johnson is the city's utility rates.

"We have an extremely high utility rate, and I just believe we need to hold the line on increasing utility rates and access to the utilities in terms of deposits and charges to developers to connect the utilities," Johnson said.

She said the city has many senior citizens on fixed incomes, as well as young families.

"And these are just charges that get to be burdensome," Johnson aid. "They also prevent people from moving into our community, which really prohibits our growth and stymies our tax base."

Johnson has two children. Michael is a student at Emporia State University and Candace is a junior at MHS.

Johnson said she hopes voters will turn out for Tuesday's primary election, as well as for the April 3rd general election.

"I think there are some people seriously want to address the issues, and I think there are going to be some tough decisions that are going to be made," Johnson said. "I think there are some candidates who are willing to do that and I think there are more that are in favor of the status quo."

Charles Karmann

A McLouth business owner, Charles Karmann attended several council meetings last year.

Because of revised state liquor laws, Karmann was able to operate McLouth's first liquor store in some 70 years.

However, residents successfully filed a petition against liquor being served in the Jefferson County community. Last November, the issue went to the voters, who voted for liquor sales to remain legal in McLouth.

"I started going to a lot more council meetings when I opened the store and seeing how it's done and what goes on there," Karmann said.

He now would prefer to attend meetings full-time as a council member.

"I wanted to run for City Council because I think I can be a positive influence and help the people have more of a say of what goes on," Karmann said.

Karmann moved to McLouth in the third grade. His father was in the Air Force, which meant he moved several times with his parents as a youth.

Both of his parents originally are from the area, and he's lived in McLouth since 1987.

Karmann is 28 and is married. His wife, Amanda, works for the Jefferson County Treasurer's Office in Oskaloosa.

If he were elected, Karmann said he wanted the council to review the budget and "see whether we can keep city bills and utility bills from going up any more than they already have."

"I feel like the city should be able to maintain the budget and not pass the burden onto the citizens," he said.

Keith Meador

Keith Meador would like to make a return trip to the city council. Meador served on the council in the 1990s.

The 42-year-old McLouth resident said he's running again because he's concerned about some of the discussions taking place in recent council meetings.

"There's currently a couple council members who feel that eliminating jobs is going to help in the long run and cutting jobs is going to help the amount of money the city is going to work with," Meador said.

He said he doesn't see the need for downsizing the current staff.

"If we were to cut jobs, it causes more of a havoc than you would imagine, so it's not something you would think of doing," Meador said.

The last time Meador served, McLouth, as he put it, was going through some major changes.

The council was working on two projects -- a new water tower and a sewer system upgrade -- that were completed.

Meador will look to the future again if elected.

"It's a quiet, sleepy little town," Meador said. "And I hope it grows. I hope grows residential-wise in the near future."

Meador calls himself a "military transplant" -- he was stationed throughout the nation and in Germany.

But in 1989, he and his wife, Marie, settled into McLouth and have lived here ever since.

Keith, who also serves as assistant fire chief for the McLouth Fire Department, works as a corrections officer at the Leavenworth Detention Center. And his wife, Marie, works for the Department of Defense. They also have three grown children.

Meador and his family have lived in McLouth for roughly 18 years. He has seen some changes in the city, and he hopes, if elected, to keep the city moving forward.

"One of my biggest things is I want to see the city services continue and improve as time goes on instead of being depleted by anything," Meador said.

Gerald Sullivan

According to Gerald Sullivan, things have changed since he served two terms on the McLouth City Council back in the early 1970s.

There are more regulations and there's more paperwork. But the city overall is in pretty good shape, he said.

"Our streets are probably better than any small town around," Sullivan said. "We've got a new sewer system and we've got a water tower that's 10 years old."

The city's old water tower still is in use as well.

"We're big time," Sullivan quipped. "We've got two water towers."

The 62-year-old Sullivan has lived in McLouth for 39 years. Before retiring he worked as a diesel mechanic for Associated Grocers in Kansas City, Kan. He and his wife, Linda, have two grown sons, Patrick and Jason, and four grandchildren.

Sullivan said he was not out to promote his own agenda.

But he said everyone would benefit if residents took a more active role in local government. He suggested holding town-hall meetings with City Council members and city officials present, and sending out a quarterly newsletter to let residents know what's going on.

Sullivan said the town government needs more structure and leadership.

He's not afraid to speak up.

"If it's black, I'll tell you it's black, and if it's white, I'll tell you it's white," Sullivan said. "I'm pretty straightforward. I'm not a good fence rider."

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