Planning commissioner files for Leavenworth County commission

December 30, 2015

Though the election is more than 10 months away, one candidate already has filed for Leavenworth County Commissioner.

John Matthews filed by petition to run as a Republican in the third district, covering the southern portion of the county. With more than 20 years of experience on the Basehor Planning Commission and more than 10 on the county’s planning commission, Matthews said he would like to focus on road improvements, economic development in the county’s southern areas and communication with his constituents.

Matthews, who has lived in the county for 32 years, said he first considered running for county commission when he helped late Commissioner John Flower with his campaign.

“He always told me, ‘You know, you should run when I get done,’” Matthews said.

But when Flower’s term ended, Matthews hadn’t retired yet. Now that he has retired, Matthews said he wants to fulfill his late friend’s wish and use his experience from the planning commission to serve residents.

“I’ve always had a fondness for the people here,” he said. “When I grew up, my parents were involved in civic organizations, so it came naturally to get involved.”

Matthews previously also has been involved in the community as a member of Basehor Chamber of Commerce, Fort Leavenworth Bass Club and Kansas City Woodworkers Guild.

He attended Kansas City Kansas Community College and Kansas University, where he graduated with bachelor's degrees in accounting and business administration.

As a commissioner, Matthews said he would like to help the county better plan for the future.

“I consider myself somewhat of a visionary,” he said. “You do have to look ahead … you need that five-years-down-the-road picture. You have to make your list, and sometimes you go down your list and make your choices. You may not be able to do something today, but you might be able to set the plan in motion.”

Matthews said he’d like to see more economic growth in the southern areas of the county — he said he hopes see the business park in Tonganoxie begin to fill up.

“Now is the time to start filling that place up,” he said. “It seems like while there are one or two organizations around that concentrate their efforts on economic development, sometimes we here in the south feel like the redheaded stepchild; they seem to want to forget us or not do much with us.”

Matthews said ideally he’d like to see companies locate in the county that offer careers, not just jobs, so that residents don’t have to drive into Kansas City to work and may have more time to be involved in their community.

Matthews said he liked the idea of the county getting its own community college offering both associate’s degrees and technical certifications, though he would have to ensure it was economically feasible and wouldn’t create a burden on taxpayers.

Matthews said he would work to hold the line on taxes as well as he could.

“But if you want something in life, sometimes, you’ve got to pay for it,” he said. “And that may involve other revenue streams of some sort or increasing the ones you already have.”

Matthews said as long as people know where the money is going and can see how it is being spent, they will be more likely to agree to an increase. Which is why he said he would make great efforts to communicate with residents and increase the county government’s transparency.

After meeting with residents concerned about paving their road, Matthews said he learned a lot of residents aren’t familiar with how to get information from the county and don’t know who their current county commissioner is.

“I’m going to make it a point to communicate with the people,” he said. “You need to have your modern media, Facebook, Twitter, and your website … I’ve thought long and hard about also maybe having a newsletter and having it mailed to the people.”

The deadline to file for County Commission is June 10.

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