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City council, mayor candidates speak on issues

Staff writer

Two Marion residents are running for mayor and three for city council positions in the Nov. 5 general election. Here’s a look at the candidates, their stances, and the reasons they chose to run.

Mayoral election

Current city council member John Wheeler said he’d thought about running for mayor for a while because he thinks his background gives him the experience to do the job and solve problems.

“I have a background in business,” Wheeler said. “I wanted to come in and be available.”

Wheeler said his 23 years in the lumber industry give him skills he can use in managing the city.

“I want to work with getting Marion through some tough times,” he said.

As a councilman for three years, Wheeler has spent two years on the Kansas Power Pool board.

Wheeler said he wants to see a 20-year-old electrical upgrade project completed, see clean water for every home and business, bring broadband high-speed internet to Marion, fix streets in need of repair, and create opportunities for local investment.

His opponent for the mayoral position, David Mayfield, is a former city administrator who has lived in Marion since 1999. Before he became city administrator, his career was in law enforcement. It was while he was Marion’s police chief he was appointed city administrator.

Mayfield said he developed a comprehensive plan and financial policy as city administrator. He decided to run because business owners want change in economic development, retirees are concerned about costs of utilities, and employee morale is at what he says is an all-time low.

Key personnel have been lost and not replaced, placing a burden on remaining employees who are not able to get things done, he said. City workers are also not being given equipment they need to do their jobs properly.

“Old, outdated equipment that is in need of repair decreases the efficiency of the people using the equipment,” he said.

Mayfield also said operation of the city has become reactive instead of proactive.

For example, had curbing been repaired on Elm St. when damage first appeared, it would have cost a few thousand dollars to repair and prevented a catastrophic failure with soil washing into Luta Creek, costing more than $250,000 to repair.

Utility rates are rising at an alarming rate, he said.

“Part of this is to replace cash reserves that had been spent in the past,” Mayfield said. “The current administration has built the reserve to over $1.1 million, at the cost of our citizens, by way of raising the utility rates.

“A portion of these reserves should be returned to the taxpayers by way of either lowering rates or investing in infrastructure.”

Mayfield is also concerned electrical workers in the city have not been properly trained and fears someone will be injured or killed. Needed street repairs are not being done, he said.

City council election

Jacob Harper has filed for city council.

He is the youngest candidate. He grew up and graduated school here, earned a degree in business, and returned to live here with his wife. He works at The Building Center.

Harper said he wanted to get involved with the community.

“I really feel like I’m trying to do my part, to lend a hand wherever I feel like it will be important,” Harper said.

He thinks he can bring a different perspective to the council because of his age.

“A younger perspective, a different mindset,” he said. “I’m going to be around for a while. I want to be part of the change. I care about now, but I just want to keep it going.”

Harper said it’s harder to start a family in Marion and settle in for the long term.

Ruth Herbel, a 58-year Marion resident, is a familiar face with years of serving on Marion’s planning and zoning board. She has been at odds with city administration over possible plans for a new cell phone tower in Marion.

Herbel is blunt about why she chose to run for city council.

“I’m tired of the dishonesty in the city administration,” Herbel said. “In March, under the open records act, I requested a copy of an appeal filed by Doug and Autumn Hanson on a zoning violation, and was told there was none on file, only a protest petition.”

Herbel said she told city administrator Roger Holter she had a copy of the appeal, filed the same date as the protest petition. Holter stepped to the copy machine and printed her a copy, she said.

“The appeal had been in his hand the whole time,” Herbel said.

Herbel claims Holter deceived her another time, when he gave her “a fake telecommunication search ring map” in response to an open records request.

“That’s when I decided that my name would be on the ballot for city council,” Herbel said.

Herbel added she was told by an assistant attorney general that a fake telecommunication map violates open records laws and is a criminal offense for which charges could be filed.

“I’m just tired of things that come out of that office,” Herbel said.

Verizon Wireless earlier filed a request for a conditional use permit to build a cell phone tower and the city has not taken final action on the request, Herbel said.

“This case will probably end up in court,” Herbel said.

Herbel is also at odds with plans for new water lines in Marion, because she thinks a project that will benefit 320 households is not justified by a $17.73 spike in water meter charges. That will be a hardship on residents, she said.

“If we keep raising the utility rates, we could turn Marion into a ghost town,” Herbel said.

An upgrade of the city’s electrical service should have been completed, and the city keeps budgeting for the work, Herbel said.

She wants the city to stay within its budget, and wants to see more community involvement on board such as planning and zoning, parks, and the cemetery board.

Herbel said she would research before making decisions, which she has time to do.

Incumbent Jerry Kline has filed for another term on the city council. In all, Kline has served 10 years as a council member. He also drives a sports bus for the school district.

He decided to run for another term because people encouraged him to do so, Kline said. Spending time on the council has taught him a lot.

“I worked with David (Mayfield) as a council member before,” Kline said. “I go in with a broad mind and I did with David, and I was sure impressed.”

Kline said he looks forward to working with new people on the council and thinks there’s a need for him to run again.

Kline said the biggest issues he sees the city face are economic growth and getting new families to move to Marion. He wants to see new businesses and families, and keep utility bills from getting too high.

While he wants to work with city staff on issues they face, he has too little power to solve those problems himself, Kline said.

Last modified Oct. 17, 2019

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