Beverly “Bev” Oroke candidate questionnaire responses
Editor's note: The following are responses to a questionnaire mailed to candidates in the upcoming Aug. 5 primary election. Look for more candidate profiles and full responses to the questions leading up to the primary
Name: Beverly "Bev" Oroke
Place of residence: Tonganoxie
Birthdate: Feb. 18, 1947
Family: Debbie Himpel, Carey Oroke, daughters; Curtis Oroke, son; Lindsey, Lauren, Caleb and Clayton Himpel and Morgan and Corbin Oroke, grandchildren
Education: Some college and 40 years of work experience primarily in engineering, commercial construction and commercial development.
Political and government experience: "I've worked for others in past elections and have always followed the government process with sincere interest."
Clubs or organizations: Ronald McDonald House, Tonganoxie Christian Church, Toastmasters (public speaking organization), United Way, Human Resources Management Association
Why are you running for the commission seat? "I want to serve the residents of our county so that all taxpayers can receive maximum value for our tax dollars. I understand that this will mean making thoughtful and sometimes tough decisions. I would weigh every dollar of county expenditure relative to its benefit to the taxpayers in the same way I think about my personal budget."
What is your top priority for Leavenworth County? "We are becoming a metropolitan area whether we like it or not. We need a plan for economic stimulus and a 20-year plan for future land use. I will endeavor to bring about both."
The current county commission has committed special sales tax revenue to several capital improvement projects, including the County Road 1 interchange project in southern Leavenworth and a countywide communications upgrade. How would you like to see these projects handled if elected? "The County has approved a lease-purchase agreement through KDOT for the towers and other necessary equipment to satisfy the federal mandate to update our communications systems. By utilizing this option the county is saving a significant amount of dollars. The cost is in the neighborhood of $10 to $12 million dollars, which is lower than the estimated $20 million originally quoted. The goal is to fulfill this obligation and provide state-of-the art equipment for those who work for the county's emergency service departments and, in turn, provide the best services to the patrons. In support of the County Road 1 improvements, the county has committed an estimated $8.8 million, the City of Tonganoxie committed $1.5 million, KDOT has committed an estimated $310,000 and the KTA has committed $2 million. The project is underway, and we must have a comprehensive master plan for appropriate development as this project moves forward. I want to ensure we are getting the best results for our tax dollars for this project."
For the past five budget cycles, commissioners have reduced the county's mill levy - or the percentage of assessed value that county property owners pay in property tax each year. What efforts would you make to hold the line on or decrease property taxes, if any? "As a dynamic growing county we are faced with the problem of how do we provide more services with limited tax dollars? We must provide a climate for job growth so that we generate enough tax revenue to support the required services. The commission sets the mill levy, but appraisals are set in accordance with the State of Kansas. The mill level is greatly affected by appraised values of homes and businesses either increasing or decreasing. My goal is to give all taxpayers the best return on their investment. I will commit to managing the mill levy in a responsible manner."
Leavenworth County is experiencing a time of residential and commercial growth. What steps might you take to manage that growth? "We need a comprehensive master plan that will serve as a guide for our future growth. Where we choose to locate arterial and collector streets will dictate land utilization."
As a county commissioner, you would assume authority over more than 400 county employees - including a newly hired county administrator - and would constantly interact with them, other municipalities' elected officials and members of the public. What kind of leadership, administrative and interpersonal skills do you possess? How would you work with the administrator and county department heads to make decisions and develop/implement policy? "My business experience in the construction industry will serve me well as a county commissioner. I have interacted directly with business owners, professionals, top management as well as the employees who perform the physical work. Open communications with the administrator as well as the department heads will allow the commissioners to be informed on issues and budgetary concerns. These people are experienced and professionals in their areas of responsibility. When they make their monthly reports to the commission I will ask questions about the need and about the cost versus the benefit. I also promote an open door policy to create harmony and interaction to resolve issues."
Are you in favor of locating a combined regional airport and industrial complex in Leavenworth County? Why or why not? "There is a study being done now supported by the county and the cities to analyze the proposed benefits of a regional airport. We are the only large county in the state without a regional airport. Usually, when you have this type of complex, industrial development follows. I would base my decision on the results of the study. We certainly need to attract businesses to our county, which would support more jobs for our residents. If the FAA would support the regional airport, there is the possibility of matching funds from that source."
What differentiates you from the other candidates filing for this office? "I have the business experience, knowledge and leadership to perform in this capacity. I have worked in engineering, construction and economic and commercial development most of my career. I have held several management positions and interfaced with top management, legal professionals, contract negotiations, facilities, accounting and human resource management. I am a team builder, and I certainly am aware of the responsibilities of this very important position."