Council member vies for mayor’s post
Russell describes vision for city
In his job as a project manager with George Butler Associates, a professional design firm in Lenexa, Harland Russell says he's gaining valuable experience should he be elected Lansing's mayor.
Russell says his private-sector job has given him the opportunity to deal with large budgets, infrastructure questions, team-building and the like. In addition, he's attended numerous leadership classes and workshops at the behest of his employer.
"I think a lot of that (experience) I'm going to be able to bring back to the community," Russell said in a recent interview.
He's got a tall task: He will square off against longtime incumbent Kenneth Bernard in the April 5 balloting for Lansing mayor.
Russell is a nine-year member on the Lansing City Council. He lists numerous decisions he's backed as city accomplishments: expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, street improvement projects, the Main Street Development ordinance and Towne Center among them.
Bernard also supported those issues. So what does Russell point to in differentiating between the candidates?
"Probably my overall vision for the community," he said.
He explained by noting his work on various projects at George Butler Associates, including projects as small as a site plan for a Chili's restaurant up to the $1 billion Sprint World Headquarters Campus in Overland Park.
"I think the trends that I see in land development are going to help the city be a little bit more innovative in the way we approach development," he said.
To be sure, Russell believes the city can do more on numerous fronts.
¢ On economic development: "I think we can be more aggressive on the economic development side. I think we have to be innovative when we look at economic development, when we bring people into the community or we try to bring businesses in. I think we have to be a little bit more innovative when we look at financing methods for paying for infrastructure."
¢ On Towne Center: "Let's take one name I keep hearing: Everybody says they'd like to see an Old Navy store come into Towne Center. I would too. But every community in America wants the same thing. It's the communities that are being innovative in their development standards and codes that are working together and teaming with developers that are being successful in landing the businesses that they go after."
¢ On city taxes: "We have to make sure that as we develop infrastructure : we keep our taxes affordable for everybody in our community. That's going to take some hard work and some innovative, out-of-the box thinking for us to afford."
Russell peppers his conversation with words like innovative, aggressive, vision. He says he's tried to bring those kinds of attitudes to the council.
In kicking off his campaign, he made three pledges: To work to provide an open and communicative government that makes sound decisions to serve current and future community needs; to develop operating budgets that provide expected levels of service while keeping an eye out for taxpayers; and to keep Lansing the best community it can be.
While acknowledging Lansing's growth, Russell said it was also important to build community.
"We have in Lansing a unique, diverse blend of both social and economic factors at play," he said. "We have many cases of affluent retirees. We have many people on fixed incomes. We have a lot of young families starting off in our community. We have a pretty good mix of white- and blue-collar employees. As we move forward and look at development, we have to make sure that we collectively all move together as a community because if we don't do that, anything we try to do is going to fail."
Russell's family is well known for its public service in Lansing. His father, Loren Russell, is a former mayor, council member and school board member. His grandfather Rillis Russell was a former school board member. His wife, Tammy, has served on the Lan-Del Water District Board.
He is the father of two children, a daughter, Kristyn, 13, and a son, Joshua, 8.