City council election in Roeland Park features 3 contested races

Leah Wankum - September 20, 2019 10:39 am

Four of the eight seats on the Roeland Park city council are up for election in November. Three of them have drawn contested elections. Here’s a look at the candidates.

Ward 2

Leonard Tocco and Benjamin Dickens are vying for the Ward 2 seat. Tim Janssen, who currently fills the seat, is not running for re-election.

A resident of Roeland Park for six years, Dickens is in his first run for public office. If elected, he plans to push for business development and economic growth.

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“For the past six years, I’ve heard people in leadership say that they want to bring in new business, developers and entrepreneurs, but I haven’t seen any activity on that,” Dickens said. “So after six years, I’ve decided there are newer people on council that I know are like-minded, and with my help I think we could actually push that forward instead of just talking about it for another six years.”

He also hopes new businesses can provide relief for residents on fixed incomes because they will provide an increase in sales tax revenues.

Dickens has worked in human resources since 2006, focusing mostly on employee relations. He lives with his partner of 12 years.

A lifelong resident of Roeland Park, Tocco is making his second run for council; he ran two years ago. If elected, he wants to prioritize building community in the city, noting the city has already been recognized for being “a city for all.” He wants to continue that.

“Being a lifelong resident, I’ve seen the changes that the city has gone through,” Tocco said. “I truly have a lifelong commitment to the city. The city has always been important to me, and I honestly feel that building a community where every resident is valued is truly important.”

He also wants to strive for government transparency, a pragmatic approach to public service and a culture of allowing all voices to be heard.

Tocco works in cybersecurity for a local utility company. He lives with his wife, Julie Tocco.

Ward 3

In Ward 3, political newcomers Trisha Brauer and Galen Hansen are both in their first run for council. Erin Thompson, who currently fills the seat, is not running for re-election.

In her first run for council, Brauer’s main priority is the development of quality businesses in the city, especially as a small business owner. A 15-year resident of Roeland Park, Brauer left the marketing world to start her own business in 2010 as a benefit auctioneer.

“We have a lot of resources available that I don’t feel like we’re capitalizing on quite well,” Brauer said. “And I feel that our community could really benefit from drawing and attracting in small businesses. As a small business owner, that is something that’s always been very important to me, and the timing was right in my life to be able to run for city council.”

Brauer lives with her husband, Hayden Brauer, and their two dogs, Herky and Mark.

If elected, Hansen said he plans to bring to the council his experiences from a 30-year career in finance and accounting. He thinks the council needs to improve on accountability to residents.

“I don’t think that the city council, especially in the last two years, acts as though they are representing the people,” Hansen said. “It’s more kind of a rulership, the governing body, they don’t seem to listen to the people. And I want to try to help to instill an attitude that we’re all basically shareholders, similar to how people would be shareholders in a company.”

He also wants to see the city be more open in communication and use financial resources “wisely.” He lives near R Park and said he’s especially concerned with those recent changes, as well as the process with the Roe 2020 project.

Hansen has been a Roeland Park resident for nearly two decades.

Ward 4

Political newcomers A.J. Cameron and Michael Rebne are vying for the Ward 4 seat on the city council. Michael Poppa, who currently fills the seat, is not running for re-election.

A resident of Roeland Park since 1986, Cameron has a professional background in sales. He said a friend encouraged him to seek public office. He especially wants to focus on addressing personal property taxes, possibly reducing the mill levy and ensuring the tax burden does not rely so heavily on property owners.

“The system seems to cook in an increase, and I’m concerned because some people are wanting to take out a $1.5 million to $2 million loan when we have some money,” Cameron said. “I figure somewhere down the road, there’s going to be a correction or worse in the economy, and I don’t want to see personal property owners saddled with expenditures that they have to pay on and then the city has to raise even higher taxes on the mill levy.

“I don’t think people are being represented. I think they’re expected to pick up whatever the city council wants to spend money.”

Cameron said the recession in 2008 brought this issue to his attention.

A public school teacher for 15 years in Kansas City on both sides of the border, Rebne also has a background in business finance. He said he’s always appreciated the quality of city services and the city’s investment in parks, green space, public artwork and the outdoor aquatic center and community center.

“I just feel like Roeland Park has a real strong core sense of equality and justice as well,” Rebne said. “I wanted to run to both continue the investment in those great city services that we have here and also make sure that we continue to build on the progress we’ve made in passing and supporting things like the nondiscrimination ordinance within our city limits.”

Rebne said he wants to continue the tradition of providing city services “thoughtfully and responsibly,” especially considering the future of the city.

Rebne has lived in Roeland Park for about a decade with his wife, Kristi Meyer, their two children, and their cat, Cheetah.

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