Council candidates praise general election field
At a De Soto Chamber of Commerce candidate forum last Thursday, a couple of the candidates running for De Soto City Council praised the others in the field and said all would be good councilmen.
Rick Walker was one of those making the observation.
“I don’t think we can go wrong with electing any two of us. For obvious reasons, I think I should be one,” he joked.
Walker said he wasn’t running with any agenda or because of any one issue. He ran because he feared the lack of activity in the weeks leading to the filing deadline would leave residents with little choice, only to became part of a primary slate of 11 candidates as others made the same decision.
Walker, a two-year member of the De Soto Planning Commission, said he approved of the performance of recent city councils. He supported moving forward with downtown redevelopment, including the $600,000 to $900,000 two-block streetscape improvements on the city’s capital improvement list and the remaining two phases of Riverfest Park.
Another investment would be the upgrade of the Sunflower water treatment plant.
“We need to lobby hard to get funding for the stimulus package for out there,” he said.
The De Soto City Council’s decision to renovate the Sunflower water treatment plant remained a concern to Ron McDaniel, the top finisher in the March 3 city council primary an one-time supervisor of both the old De Soto water plant and the Sunflower water treatment plant when the ammunition plant was still active.
“Water is the lifeblood of this town,” he said. “I’m very passionate about water. There is still a lot to be done.”
The city needs to encourage more low-income and middle-calls housing, instead of catering to larger lot high-income housing, McDaniel said.
“I don’t think that’s been done,” he said. “We need more people out here.”
More rooftops would allow the city to attract a grocery and hardware store the community needs, he said.
Bob Garrett, a former fire chief of the Monticello Township fire department, said he also was running because of his concern the city would purchase water from Olathe rather than renovate the Sunflower plant. He and McDaniel took their argument for that cause to the city council, he said.
“We were successful with that,” he said.
All residents ought to be able to go to the city council to make their concerns known and be listened to, Garrett said. He didn’t want De Soto to become another Lenexa. In that city, residents asking to fly an oversized American flag and were turned down because it violated code.
“I don’t want to see De Soto put codes before the American flag,” he said.
Another De Soto Planning Commission member running for the council, Kevin Honomichl, said his almost eight years on that body and three years as its chairman gave him a “very good understanding of the opportunities De Soto has.”
The city needed to continue its strong working relationship with the chamber and De Soto Economic Development Council and know what the city was and then build on those strengths, he said.
The city needed to use incentives wisely to attract businesses that want to help the community grow and not burden its residents. Another key to growing the tax base was public-private partnerships, Honomichl said.
“Businesses build our city; the government doesn’t,” he said.
Finally, Honomichl said the city needed to develop “a successful implementation strategy for water treatment and supply so that we have competitive water rates for industry that has been so successful in our community.”
John Krudwig, the third member of the planning commission running for the council, said running for the council was an extension of that commitment and his work with local businesses and the city since moving to his wife’s hometown four years ago and opening a structural engineering firm downtown.
He has provided professional services for a number of city facilities, including the new sewer plant and Sunflower water treatment plant, Krudwig said. That knowledge and his professional background would be valuable as the council moves ahead with coming improvements, he said.
With three engineers engineers running — Krudwig, Honomichl and Walker — balance demanded he join the race as an architect, Doug Pickert joked.
Different sources provided the energy for De Soto’s growth during different times in its history, Pickert said. The first source was the Kansas River that served as a transportation and commercial stimulus in the town’s early days. That was replaced by the railroad and eventually the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, he said.
Today, the source of energy is Kansas Highway 10, Pickert said. But he questioned whether De Soto was taking full advantage of the highway and said it was frustrating the K-10 business park was so slow to fill up. The task for De Soto was effectively to harness that economic engine, he said.
Pickert said he moved to De Soto five years ago because he wanted his children to grow up in a small town like he did in Gardner. That meant he didn’t want De Soto to be a Lenexa and Olathe, but he joined other residents in wanting the grocery and hardware stores those cities have, he said.