Archive for Thursday, January 11, 2007

Johnson enters city council race

January 11, 2007

Kirk Johnson this week became the third candidate to enter this spring's race for one of three open seats on the De Soto City Council.

Johnson will join a field that now includes incumbent Councilwoman Mitra Templin and FCB Bank Vice President Mike Drennon. Councilwoman Linda Zindler has said she won't seek a third term, while incumbent Betty Cannon is still undecided.

Johnson said he decided to run while writing a check for his taxes.

"I just thought, 'I ought to get involved to see this money is spent wisely,'" he said.

For Johnson that means taking steps to assure De Soto keeps its identity as Sunflower developers and the Johnson County development bubble moves west.

"I'm very much afraid we'll get swallowed up if we don't get a plan and stick with it," he said. "What De Soto is is the most important thing. If we wanted to live in a place without identity we could do that somewhere else a good deal cheaper."

That concern dovetails with his interest in increasing commercial opportunities in De Soto to relieve the tax burden on homeowners. Johnson said the downtown revitalization plan offered a place to start in both those efforts.

As a member of the De Soto Economic Development Council, a vice president of the organization the past two years, Johnson said he had direct involvement in the development of the downtown revitalization plan, starting when he walked the streets of downtown with consultant Marty Shukert when he first visited in October 2005.

Johnson said the plan's concept of redeveloping the city yard area offers a chance to get the revitalization effort moving.

"I think the city is going to have to make the first move in some shape or form -- either doing the thing across the street from Miller Park or the city yard," he said. "I think the city yard could be done fairly easily."

That and other development conceived in the revitalization plan could pay for the downtown streetscape improvements with no cost to taxpayers, Johnson said.

Johnson has lived in De Soto for eight years and is the compliance officer of Mr. Goodcents -- a position that has him selling restaurants in the De Soto-based chain to franchisers, getting them established and helping assure standards of quality are maintained.

Johnson said he has been in the hospitality business for 40 years, running restaurants and hotels in the United States and Canada. He is past president of the Vancouver, B.C., Hotel Association and served on the boards of various tourism groups in and around Vancouver, he said.

Johnson said one of the things that set him apart in the race was that he was an employee.

"I think that will add a different perspective," he said. "I understand big money; I work with a company with $40 million in annual sales. But I understand little money, too. I work with restaurants where every dollar is important."

The filing deadline for the spring council/school board election is noon Jan. 23.

Should more than six candidates file for the council, a Feb. 27 primary will narrow the slate to six. Those three candidates with the most votes in the April 3 general election will be elected to four-year terms on the council.

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