Experience plentiful in county commission race
In addition to deciding the fate of the local city council and school board members, Bonner Springs and Edwardsville voters on Tuesday will help decide the at-large Wyandotte County commissioner.
The race pits incumbent Mark Holland, 41, a United Methodist pastor, against Mike Gilstrap, 62, a retired carpenter and past commissioner. Both say they think the county should work to be more efficient and tighten the budget, but Gilstrap believes better support for public safety and balanced development are the county’s top concerns, while Holland believes the county needs to work to provide job training for residents and to make the county a more healthy community.
Gilstrap said he decided to run for commission because he decided he wasn’t done with the work he started eight years ago when he held the at-large position.
“The past four years we’ve witnessed careless spending and taxes rising on our citizens,” he said. “It is time to tighten the belt. Many citizens are not happy with the direction of our community, and I will step in and get us back on track.”
In his view, rising taxes and the need to balance the budget are the biggest issues facing the county. He said he also is concerned about properly funding the police and fire departments to increase safety and balancing development.
“We are seeing great development in the Village West area of Wyandotte County, but we must not forget the other areas,” he said. “We cannot be too top heavy; the growth should be spread throughout the community.”
Holland said he was running for re-election to continue his service to the county. He said he would continue to take the time to learn about issues from several perspectives and listen to insight and feedback from others before making a decision.
Holland may not have the same feelings about spending as Gilstrap, but he does think the county’s top concern in the next few years will be managing finances.
“We need to continue to be leaner and more efficient at every turn,” he said. “We need to continue to identify cost savings and prioritize the work of the government.”
He also thinks the county should ensure adequate job training is accessible to residents to make sure they can be employed by the many new businesses coming into the county, rather than the jobs going to residents of other counties.
He also is concerned that Wyandotte County ranked last out of the 105 counties in the state for overall health.
“I am committed to the Complete Streets initiative that makes our city more walking and biking friendly,” he said. “I am also supportive of Healthy Community Centers like what Bonner and Turner have provided.”
Gilstrap and Holland also disagree on the job performed by the county’s professional staff.
Gilstrap said he was not satisfied with their performance, saying they needed to do a better job of enforcing the state’s cash basis law.
Holland said he was proud that the staff had found a way to reduce the workforce and save money through attrition and retirements rather than layoffs.
“We have fewer people doing the same great job,” he said. “Our employees have endured three straight years without a cost-of-living increase in addition to forced furloughs. Our professional staff has navigated this very well. I give them an A.”
Visit bonnersprings.com to find full answers from each candidate for The Chieftain’s candidate questionnaire.