WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — KSN News sent a questionnaire to each Wichita candidate facing a challenger in the November general election. Voters in east Wichita will decide the City Council District 2 race.
We have not made any edits to the candidate’s answers.
I have over twenty-five years of professional experience engaging community partners through grassroots local coalition efforts focusing on tobacco, physical activity, healthy eating, oral health, fetal infant mortality, and worksite wellness. Much of the experience has focused on policy and environmental changes to improve the health of the community.
I currently serve on the Wichita City Council after being appointed on January 8, 2019 to fulfill the last year of a four-year term. I was elected on November 5, 2019 to serve an additional four-year term and represent approximately 70,000 residents in District 2. Previously, I served as the Community Development Director for the Greater Wichita YMCA, as well as facilitating the Health & Wellness Coalition of Wichita. The Community Development Branch Director provides leadership and management for outreach programs and services including volunteer development, partnership development, fiscal management, financial development, as well as the program and membership experience.
I serve on the Arts Council Board of Directors, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition Executive Committee, Leadership Wichita Board of Trustees, Wichita Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention, Greater Wichita Area Veterans Advocacy Board, Bike Share Advisory Board, Open Streets ICT Planning Committee, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce Young Professional Mentor, Governor’s Council on Fitness, National Baseball Congress Board of Directors, Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Chair, City Arts Advisory Committee, Wichita State University Public Policy & Management Center Advisory Board, Health & Wellness Coalition of Wichita (past Chair), and Plastic Bag Task Force. I am a member of the Regional Economic Area Partnership, Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition (past President), Kansas Public Health Association (past President), Tobacco Free Wichita, Bike Walk Wichita, Health Alliance (past Chair), Coalition of Coalitions Building the Case for Public Health in Sedgwick County, Sedgwick County Association of Cities, Wichita Metropolitan Crime Commission and the Food & Farm Council.
I earned Master of Arts degrees from Appalachian State University in Student Development Administration and School Counseling and a Bachelor of Science from the University of South Dakota in Psychology and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies.
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What specific Wichita issue deserves your immediate attention, and how do you plan to address it?
Keeping our community safe is a core function of the Mission for the City of Wichita. A priority that I am currently hearing the most about from residents is concerns of a staffing crisis in the Wichita Police Department. Reduced police recruitment and retention is a trend occurring across the nation and the WPD has over 100 vacancies with many more staff who are eligible for retirement. The City of Wichita and the WPD are looking at peer city police departments who have been successful in addressing staffing shortages and implementing those tactics here. These efforts, coupled with opening the Fraternal Order of Police contract early, will help address the immediate needs and set a path forward with staffing, salary, and morale solutions. I am a strong advocate for any initiatives that build safe and healthy communities and I have been an avid supporter of our police and fire departments during my tenure of Wichita City Council. It is my honor to have been unanimously endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.
How do you propose to grow the Wichita economy and create jobs?
As we are in unstable economic times, we need to be laser focused on diversifying our economy and utilizing our exceptionally well-trained and skilled workforce. Our City’s Economic Development team has done an exceptional job of collaborating with community partners and industries to keep our anchor industries here and sharing with the rest of the world why other industries should call Wichita their home. I will support and empower this work in every capacity I can. Maximizing our economic opportunities will depend on identifying new industries, strong infrastructure, transportation, and a safe community.
One way that we can provide better opportunities for economic growth is by fulfilling the City’s Mission of building and maintaining dependable infrastructure. The City of Wichita is constructing a state-of-the-art water treatment plant that will be more efficient and allow us to treat 125 million gallons per day in season of peak demand, versus an average of 75 million gallons per day, which is what we have now. The new Wichita Water Works facility will be available for full use in 2025. As demand rises and new economic opportunities develop, we need to be forward thinking and evaluate the possibilityof wastewater reuse as a viable alternative for additional supply. Finally, transportation is the lifeblood of any city and region’s economy. As the current Chair of the Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, I have learned, listened and led to ensure that the most regionally significant projects are a priority. I have also been a liaison with the Kansas Department of Transportation for the North Junction and east Kellogg and K-96 expansion projects, that allow goods and freight to move more efficiently and effectively through our city and recognizing that these projects also impact quality of life. We know with traffic gridlock comes frustration, accidents and altered schedules. I’ve heard from working parents who have changed their work schedule because it was not possible to get to childcare on time for pick-up if it meant going through the gridlock of the North Junction. Investment in well-functioning infrastructure is necessary to ensure our workforce and our economy can continue to thrive.
Describe your vision for Wichita’s future and how you plan to achieve it.
My vision is the same as when I spoke before the Wichita City Council on January 8, 2019 to seek appointment as the District 2 City Council Member to fulfill the last year of an unexpired term. I stated that my vision for Wichita is that today’s middle and high school students are still in Wichita ten years from now. And they are here because they are tethered to our community with good jobs in a diversified economy and are utilizing skills obtained from our institutions of higher learning. In ten years, when those students that I hope are still here turn on the faucet, the water that pours out is safe and abundant. That cultural activities are readily available for all. When they consider how they move around the city, they have safe and viable options, such as walking, biking and transit on infrastructure that is well maintained. And that if heaven forbid, when they have an emergency, our City’s finest Wichita Police and Wichita Fire Departments arrive quickly and well trained, just as they do today.
I’ve spent my career helping make Wichita the best place to live, learn, earn, play, and pray. I have championed issues that are important to my neighbors, such as food deserts and food insecurity, homelessness, mental health and substance abuse, childcare, workforce development, public safety, and better infrastructure. These issues are not easily solved, but Wichita needs and deserves leaders who are willing to make hard decisions and lean into the content experts who can find solutions. I don’t have all the answers. Wichitans are smart. We have exceptional community leaders and we need to rely on them to help make decisions. Government cannot and should not make decisions alone. I have always been a roll up your sleeves type of leader and that won’t change when I am re-elected.
What should be done about violence in the city?
Immediately, the staffing issues within the Wichita Police Department must be addressed to have the personnel resources for timely responses to residents. Concurrently, our well-trained law enforcement experts are using tools and resources available to implement twenty first century policing tactics. As with most industries and professions, technology is providing opportunities for being more strategic and accurate. Advanced technology acts as another set of eyes and ears to compliment current police staffing. It allows the Wichita Police Department to track and respond quicker with a more specific approach that limits risk to the public. Communities that incorporate technology into a comprehensive crime strategy see improvements with response times, evidence recovery, lives saved and witness identification. The Wichita Police Department has been steadfast that when utilizing these tools, the community is engaged in providing feedback and residents’ privacy rights are protected. The Wichita Police Department has a focus on strong policy, robust training, and close supervision to ensure technology tools are used effectively and appropriately and protect residents from misuse or abuse of personal information.
What should Wichita do to address homelessness and the need for affordable housing?
To ensure that Wichita can thrive, we need to address our housing shortage and have multi-generational housing options. Wichita needs a combination of affordable housing and housing that’s affordable, both of which are essential for the future stability of Wichita’s housing market. Subsidized public housing, or affordable housing, supports low-income tenants struggling with rising rents. Affordable housing, by contrast, is when rents or mortgages are no more than 30% of one’s income. As it stands, Wichita struggles to provide both. Implementing the Places for People Plan to help prompt development in the core of the city where infrastructure costs have been realized long ago will help with both affordable housing and housing that’s affordable. During my time serving the city as an appointee and as an elected official, I have supported zoning and land use for all types of housing, including single family, duplex and multi-family. The path to home ownership is different for everyone; the notification, petition and hearing process works well to ensure fair and equal representation for all parties involved.
The best solution for homelessness is a home. I am honored that the Realtors of South Central Kansas have given me their endorsement as a candidate because they see I have been a thought leader when our community is discussing affordable housing and have worked hard to learn from community members and content experts in this field.
What should Wichita do about food deserts?
This very important issue is one that I have been involved in for a decade. As a long time member and past Chair of the Health & Wellness Coalition of Wichita, food deserts have been a passion project for many of my public health colleagues and me. The Health & Wellness Coalition of Wichita conducted the Wichita Food Deserts. Why We Should Care studyin the winter of 2013. Traditionally, a food desert is defined as a low-income area where a significant number of residents have low access to supermarkets or grocery stores. The USDA describes low access for urban areas, like Wichita, as living more than one mile from a full-service grocery store. The Wichita Food Deserts. Why We Should Care study revealed there are approximately 44 square miles of food deserts in Wichita and 25% of the population lives in a food desert. This was the catalyst for the community to have meaning discussions regarding how to get people to food and food to people. Additional follow up studies were conducted to learn more regarding the barriers to healthy food access and the local food system. www.hwcwichita.org
In 2022, the Health & Wellness Coalition of Wichita, the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County, and community partners adopted a Food System Master Plan and established the Food & Farm Council. The Food System Master Plan aims to transform the food system in our community. It is a long-range plan that provides a vision for addressing food deserts. The Food & Farm Council will serve as an advisory board to the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County. Work for the council includes providing a forum for food system collaboration by convening stakeholders from all sectors of the food system, compiling feedback from these food system stakeholders and offering policy solutions and recommendations to the governing bodies and supporting awareness of funding opportunities amongst food system partners.
Would you change how much the city spends on its different departments (police, fire, parks, transit, etc.)? If so, how?
I feel strongly that each of the departments within the City of Wichita provide value to our community! I do hear from residents on a consistent basis that we should take better care of city streets and bridges before expanding more. The priority is and should continue to be maintenance of our infrastructure before enhancement or expansion. With 5600 lane miles within the City, it is imperative that we remain efficient and strategic when allocating city resources. The City of Wichita relies on a robust pavement preservation program that aligns with the Capital Improvement Program to prioritize spending.