Archive for Thursday, June 3, 2004

Familiar face seeks top post

Former Council member announces intent to seek mayoral position

June 3, 2004

For the past few months, Chris Garcia, a name from Basehor city government past, has spoken to neighbors, residents and friends with one question in mind. Would they support him if he chose to run for mayor?

"The response from the majority was 'I think you'd make a good mayor,'" said Garcia, a former member of the Basehor Planning Commission, and past City Council president.

Garcia, 47, announced this week he will seek the top post in Basehor's political realm during the election next year. While there have been hints here and there from some residents about possibly seeking the mayor's position, so far, Garcia is the only person to publicly announce his intentions.

The April 2005 election is still 10 months away and candidates cannot officially file for the post until the beginning of next year. However, Garcia is a lone wolf as of now; repeated telephone calls to current Basehor mayor Joseph Scherer inquiring of his plans for a possible re-election bid went unanswered.

Garcia, a City Council member until 2002, did not seek re-election and has remained an observer of Basehor government since then. He said his political battery has been re-charged since he left office.

"My intention when I did not run for re-election was to sit back and see what happened," Garcia said. "I've talked it over with neighbors, friends and family, and now I've made the decision to run for mayor."

This isn't the first time Garcia has run for the post.

In 2001, he ran a last-ditch campaign against Bill Hooker, a current City Council member and past mayor, that lasted two weeks. Circumstance dictated his entry into the race as a write-in candidate.

Mayor of the time John Pfannenstiel, a former corrections officer at the Lansing Correctional Facility, was convicted in Leavenworth County District Court of having improper relationships with prisoners. In the midst of his re-election bid and just weeks before the mayoral election, he could no longer run because his convictions included felony charges.

Hooker ran unopposed briefly before Garcia filled the candidate vacancy. The shakeup for the mayor's office continued 16 months after Hooker took office; in a surprise move, he resigned in Aug. 2002 and Scherer, City Council president at the time, was appointed mayor.

Although Hooker defeated Garcia, next year's candidate said he was encouraged by the results from his short campaign three years ago.

Garcia said he would not begin actively campaigning just yet. That will occur as time moves closer to the race, he said, and will include a substantially more thorough bid than his condensed yard-sign and mail flier bid in 2001.

He said he would begin a re-entry into Basehor politics by attending as many City Council and Planning Commission meetings as possible in the coming months, as well as visits to civic group meetings.

As to the issues, Garcia said he expects to delve into his platform as time moves closer to the election. For now, he's settling for meeting with as many residents as possible to get their feedback and to determine "what I can do for them and for Basehor."

Inevitably, Garcia said, the top discussion among any candidates running for mayor will be the management of a boom in residential and commercial growth Basehor is experiencing.

Garcia said his stance on growth hasn't changed since he first ran for a Basehor government position in 1999.

"Growth is good but you have to look at how it impacts your infrastructure," he said.

Next April, Basehor voters will decide not only the mayor's race, but also two City Council seats, which are currently held by Keith Sifford and City Council president Julian Espinoza.

If necessary, a primary election will take place in February.

Garcia, a Basehor resident since 1991, is an operations manager at Elite Electric in Basehor. In addition to his four years on the City Council and 18 months as a Planning Commissioner, Garcia is also a past president of the Basehor Chamber of Commerce.

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