Wednesday, October 01, 2014

8 hopefuls vying for city post

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 5/3/2013

For those who couldn’t get enough of the local election races in April, the Ottawa City Commission will conduct an encore performance Monday night.

City commissioners will have eight directions they can go to fill the vacancy on their governing body. Shawn Dickinson, Rocky Fleer, Helen Hood, Barb Humm, Richard Jackson, Rick Johnson, Gary Jordan and Ruthanne Wasko have applied to fill the Ottawa City Commission seat, vacated after Jeff Richards’ resignation last month. The application deadline was 5 p.m. Thursday for the nearly two-year post.

For those who couldn’t get enough of the local election races in April, the Ottawa City Commission will conduct an encore performance Monday night.

City commissioners will have eight directions they can go to fill the vacancy on their governing body. Shawn Dickinson, Rocky Fleer, Helen Hood, Barb Humm, Richard Jackson, Rick Johnson, Gary Jordan and Ruthanne Wasko have applied to fill the Ottawa City Commission seat, vacated after Jeff Richards’ resignation last month. The application deadline was 5 p.m. Thursday for the nearly two-year post.

Commissioners, tasked with appointing Richards’ successor, are expected to begin interviewing the eight candidates at 4:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa, with the last interview scheduled to start about 8:30 p.m.

An appointment could be made as early as the city commission’s May 15 meeting. The commission has changed the start time of its May 15 meeting from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., signaling that commissioners might be taking action on an item they didn’t want to vote on during a morning session.

Richards was re-elected to the post in the April 2 election. The city commission voted April 17 to accept his resignation from the city position because he had been sworn in as Franklin County’s new sheriff April 10.

Fleer and Hood both were candidates in the April 2 election, but neither garnered enough votes to win a seat on the commission. That didn’t discourage either candidate from applying for the open seat.

“I still have a passion for the city and a strong desire to serve the community,” Hood said. “I think I would work well with the commissioners and city staff if I were appointed.”

Hood said she was impressed with the field of candidates who had applied for the position.

“My first thought was, ‘Wow,’” she said. “I think there are some really good people who have applied, and it’s not going to be an easy decision [for the commission].”

Fleer said her desire to serve the community outweighed any reservations she might have after the election.

“I still have a continued goal of being the voice of the people and making decisions that are best for the community,” Fleer, a former city commissioner from 1999 to 2011, said.

Fleer, who lost a bid to be re-elected in 2011, said she was not discouraged by her recent campaign setbacks. She said her previous experience on the commission would make her the right choice for the post. She cited her knowledge of zoning regulations and zoning issues and her work on previous city projects that ranged from infrastructure improvements to upgraded city streets, sidewalks and utility services. Fleer said she also represented the city on various boards, such as the library board.

“I have a lot of experience that I think would be valuable [to the commission],” Fleer said.

Jackson also cited his experience as a former city commissioner and mayor as making him a good fit for the post. Jackson served as a commissioner for 12 years, including four terms as mayor. He also has served on the Ottawa Planning Commission.

“With resources dwindling at the state level, I think the biggest challenge ahead for the local government is to continue to provide services with fewer resources,” Jackson said.

Jackson, longtime executive director of the Ottawa-based East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp., said his previous experience on the commission and his work with budgets would prove beneficial if he were appointed to the post.

“I enjoyed the years I spent on the commission, and I would like the opportunity to serve the community again [in that capacity],” Jackson said.

Wasko, a current member of the Ottawa Planning Commission, said she would like the opportunity to serve the community as a city commissioner.

“We’ve been in Ottawa for 10 years, and we love this town, and I would like to do something for the city if I can,” Wasko said. “That’s the reason I applied — I want to give back to the community.”

If appointed, Wasko said she would resign from her planning commission post.

Humm, who is employed at Hasty Awards, 1015 Enterprise St., Ottawa, also said she wanted to give back to the community where she enjoys living.

“I’ve lived here 37 years, and Ottawa is my home by choice,” Humm said. “I feel like I’m good at working with a variety of people and backgrounds, and I want to have a hand in shaping the future of Ottawa.”

The Humm family has a history of serving the community. Humm’s daughter, Sara Humm, is a former city commissioner.

“I enjoyed watching her do that, and I learned from that experience,” Humm said.

Longtime Ottawa attorney Gary Jordan, who has served in various leadership roles in the community, said he would like to continue serving the community by being on the city commission.

“We’ve lived in Ottawa for almost 45 years,” Jordan said. “I came here to practice law, and early on I became very involved in community service.”

Jordan is former president of the Ottawa Jaycees, as well as former president of the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors and former board president of the economic development organization that was the frontrunner to the now Franklin County Development Council, he said.

“I have four children, and the family grew and the practice got busier,” he said. “Now the children are raised and my case load at work has diminished, so I have the time and I want to renew my community service.”

Dickinson and Johnson could not be reached Friday for comment, but interested residents can listen to their interviews — as well as all the other candidates’ interviews — at the city commission’s study session Monday evening.

“I think we will see some good growth opportunities with the new [BNSF] intermodal, and we need to be prepared for that growth,” Jordan said. “I think it’s important that Ottawa grow in an orderly fashion.”

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