Economic development, improved amenities top new Shawnee councilmembers’ goals

Ward 4 Councilwoman Lindsey Constance taking the oath of office. Photo courtesy city of Shawnee.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Lindsey Constance taking the oath of office. Photo courtesy city of Shawnee.

By Jerry LaMartina

The Shawnee City Council officially has three new members, elected Nov. 7 and sworn in at its Monday night meeting: Matthew Zimmerman, Ward 1; Justin Adrian, Ward 3; and Lindsey Constance, Ward 4.

Zimmerman succeeds Dan Pflumm. Adrian succeeds Jeff Vaught. And Constance succeeds Brandon Kenig. The three new council members spoke with the Shawnee Mission Post about their goals on the council, and the strengths and weaknesses of the city and the council.

Matthew Zimmerman

Zimmerman at Monday's swearing in. Photo courtesy city of Shawnee.
Zimmerman at Monday’s swearing in. Photo courtesy city of Shawnee.

Zimmerman is 59. He was born in Wichita and grew up there and in Germany and Canada. He moved to Shawnee in 1983. He is an account executive for Johnson Controls International’s Kansas City office and is its major projects lead for large industrial projects in the Midwest.

His top goals as a councilman for Ward 1:

  • “More than anything else is to get our local economy stimulated, specifically in terms of bringing some quality businesses into the Shawnee area, with high-paying salaries and professional positions,” he said. “In turn, that will attract nice restaurants, high-end retail. We’re losing ground to our neighboring communities — Lenexa, Overland Park, Merriam, Kansas City, Kansas, by The Legends. Now, residents from Shawnee are going to our neighboring communities for dining and shopping, so that means we’re exporting our money and taxes.”
  • Shawnee’s top strengths include its parks and recreation areas; police and other public safety departments, which are “incredibly strong”; and city management, which is “one of the more efficient institutions in Johnson County for cities our size,” he said.
  • “Shawnee is a great residential community, but our residents have an attraction to dine and get entertained in other communities, which means exporting our tax dollars,” Zimmerman said. “We also have challenges with some roads in certain parts of the city, but we’ve got plans to address that, and if we can get revenues up from the commercial side, I think we can speed that up.”

On the use of public financial incentives for private developments:

“I think it’s the city’s responsibility to leverage those incentives to get the biggest bang for the buck,” he said. If that means that we’ve got to do a 20-year TIF (tax-increment financing) because that’s going to get us a better development with a higher level of income ultimately coming back to the city, then I’ll support that. If we’re just trying to take money out of the project to reduce the term of the TIF, we can do that, but any developer worth his salt is going to (cut back on the development’s scope). … We just need to make sure we’re maximizing the value we get from it. We should be working with developers that have a solid track record of long-term investments in their developments. If they’re building and then flipping properties, then they’re likely not going to do proper maintenance.”

Why he ran for the council seat:

“Between my wife and me, we had people asking us to take a run at it for over a decade now,” he said. “My three daughters are all in college. I felt like I had some time on my hands that I could give back to the community. I decided I could make a difference.”

Justin Adrian

Adrian with his family at Monday's swearing in. Photo courtesy city of Shawnee.
Adrian with his family at Monday’s swearing in. Photo courtesy city of Shawnee.

Adrian is 33. He was born in Overland Park and raised in Olathe. He has lived in Shawnee for about a year and a half, after having lived in Merriam near its border with Shawnee for about four years. He teaches history at Olathe East High School.

His top goal as a councilman for Ward 3:

  • “Economic development — more growth to our area for office, commercial and residential — is the big one,” he said. “Then more community development, like parks and trails.”
  • Shawnee has “great people in city government, very knowledgeable — a top notch crew of people and that’s key to keep growing as a city.”
  • “We had a great city manager, so I’d like to see that strength continue with next city manager,” he said. “Shawnee is a tight-knit community, that feeling of home.”
  • Economic development, though, needs improvement, he said.
  • “For the longest time, the city didn’t bring in projects that would be a one-off, like Overland Park,” he said. “I think we can do that, make Shawnee get some one-offs, (also) like Merriam’s Ikea.”
  • The prior council’s strength was that its members were “able to have conversations among themselves that were necessary,” he said, though he added that it also can be a weakness because it can reveal tension born of different ideas about what the city needs.

On the use of public financial incentives for private developments:

“With the current situation in our county, developments won’t come because they can’t make it financially feasible,” he said. “Other cities in the area are doing it, so we have to be competitive. … In some cases, I feel the city needs to say no. If it goes over a 20-year TIF, the city’s not going to make anything off it other than the increased sales tax.”

Why he ran for the council seat:

“As a history teacher, one of my first classes was government, and I fell in love with the way politics affected communities,” he said. “I felt that it was the right time for the city to get on board to develop certain areas of the city, and I wanted to be part of that process.”

Lindsey Constance

Constance is 37. She was born in Shawnee and raised mainly in Overland Park. She has lived in Shawnee about five years. She was a teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District for 10 years and has been an instructional coach for the district for the past four years.

Her top goal as a council member for Ward 4:

  • Constance said her top goal is to help choose a new city manager.
  • “We need a vision from the new city manager, someone who can pull people together,” she said.
  • Her other goals include a greater focus on recreational opportunities for the city, including a new community center; increased collaboration with Johnson County Parks and Recreation for sports fields connected by trails; and increased emphasis on planning developments “with more of a vision in mind.”
  • “I think we have a really great city staff with great leadership,” she said. “One of the exciting things over the last couple of months has been getting oriented with public safety and public works, the people we have working in our city. People often say they like the small town feel. … The main opportunity for improvement would be looking at what residents and businesses want and creating a vision for 10 years, for the bigger picture. It takes 10 years out to plan for great things for a city.
  • The council’s strengths include its representation of multiple generations of people and having three women in its ranks, thereby having many different perspectives.
  • “The challenge is when you have these different people coming together, it can be difficult to come to agreement,” she said. “The important thing is to look for common ground and start from there. That’s one of the things I found inspiring throughout the campaign, knocking on lots of doors. I met a variety of people and found that they want the same kinds of things.”

On the use of public financial incentives for private developments:

“We need to be open to it to be competitive,” she said. “I favor a balanced approached. Will it make the city better? If it brings additional green space, trails, restaurants, retail and renovation to declining areas, then I think it makes sense. Cities have to fully vet the project and make sure they get the best deal for the city.”

Why she ran for the council seat:

“A big part of the reason is I felt discouraged about our political climate,” she said. “People with different political ideas weren’t listening to one another. I have experience working with different groups of people, and I thought I could make a difference. Being a mom with two small children, it’s important to me to help make the best community for them to grow up in, and the hundreds of other kids I’ve taught.”