Roeland Park council candidates on the issues: Maintaining positive relations with council peers

Jay Senter - October 15, 2019 1:47 pm

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Roeland Park.

Today, we publish the candidates’ responses to item two:

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People who run for elected office often have strong views about how things ought to be — views that may differ sharply from their colleagues on the city council. What steps would you take to ensure that you have positive, productive relationships with council peers who may have different views than your own?

City Council Ward 2

Leonard Tocco

This question points to a real issue in today’s politics that is typically found at the national and state level but is now creeping into the local level, and that’s the inability to agree to disagree or respect genuine differences of opinion. No one has all the answers and everyone brings a different perspective. Positive, productive relationships begin with mutual respect where you listen and learn from one another. In such an environment, you often find you do agree on more than you realize, and the disagreements that may persist are not as sharp, or you at least understand where the other is coming from. That would certainly be my approach as a Council member.

Benjamin Dickens

Over the past 13 years, my career has been in Human Resources. That experience has provided me the opportunity to work with individuals who have differing points of views from all walks of life. I’ve had to work through tough situations with the blue-collar work force and office administrators as well as C-level executives and department chairs.

Finding common ground isn’t always easy if your visions take different paths but understanding each person’s point of view is essential to a healthy dialogue. Forming a bond of trust through honest, respectful, and open conversations is the only way I know of to create positive and productive relationships. When we trust each other and know that we all want what is best for Roeland Park, we can get things accomplished together.

More importantly, we in leadership must always remember that the true focus has to be on our neighbor’s needs, not just ours. Though we will have our own ideas that we will champion and try to move forward, our decisions have to ultimately come back to what the community needs from us. The ability for city council to work together must be directly tied to our community.

If I am elected as a council person for ward 2, I will take my knowledge from the business world about how to form meaningful working relationships, as well as the needs of my neighbors, and use that to best serve my community in Roeland Park and keep moving the city forward!

City Council Ward 3

Trisha Brauer

A mentor once told me, “If you are going to oppose, you need to propose.” That advice has always stayed with me and I feel applies in this situation. Disagreement is central to making progress and the most successful outcomes are created when diverse points of view are fully considered. My years of serving on various Boards and working with hundreds of nonprofits have taught me the value of respectful dialogue, direct communication and active listening – working harder to understand different perspectives than working to be “right”. It is also important to avoid rushing to judgement without facts and keeping the lines of communication open and positive.

My active role with the city has already given me the opportunity to create strong working relationships with the Mayor, City Council, city staff and fellow volunteers which is why I am proud to have the sole endorsement of both Mayor Michael Kelly and fellow Ward 3 Council Member, Claudia McCormack in my race.

As a member of the City Council, I will dedicate myself to gaining input from a variety of my neighbors to ensure the decisions at city hall include their true voices and concerns. It is for this reason that I am proud to have earned the trust of and sole endorsement from both “Neighbors for a Better Roeland Park” and the “Citizens Fundraising Initiative for R Park”. Both groups represent a tremendous amount of passion and dedication towards our community.

Galen Hansen

My professional capacity as the finance and accounting lead at my Company requires that I have positive and productive relationships with shareholders, other members of management, employees, and customers who oftentimes have different priorities, points of view, and opinions.

I have demonstrated the ability to work well with others while challenging the status quo to arrive at the best solution for the Company. I have successfully challenged spending behaviors in order to reduce costs, delivered less-than welcome financial news directly and confidently, and implemented corrective action for violation of internal controls professionally and calmly. While I am not afraid to voice my opinion as to what I feel is right regarding the issue being considered, I do not work or speak against a decision or action once a decision is made or a consensus is reached – as long as it is legal.

I have been successful at keeping open, positive, and cordial relationships with all parties and help to build consensus to move the Company forward and earn a return for the stockholders. This is also generally my same approach in interpersonal relationships.

These are the same behaviors and attributes that I would strive to put to work for the good of the City as a member of the Council.

Two primary steps seem essential to being successful on the Council. The first is to take the initiative to try to get to know the other members of the council. The second is to have an attitude of ‘participative learning’, which would require deliberately being less assertive while learning the process of the politics.

City Council Ward 4

Michael Rebne

Having positive relationships is important on a city council because we are there to represent community needs and the better we work together, the better the outcomes will be for our residents.

Open communication is one of the most important things to me in this kind of public relationship. I expect us to disagree on policy and approach, but I would make sure I hold myself accountable to always be professional and transparent about my viewpoints.

Keeping a politically diverse group of residents informed through bi-weekly email updates and responding to their concerns is one way I already interact with Roeland Parkers of differing opinions. If elected I will continue to engage with and get the perspective all of my neighbors.

Ultimately, we are elected to represent our residents. When we disagree on approach, we should ask the question, “what is most important to Roeland Parkers” and put our most important job back in the center.

A.J. Cameron

Following the lead of the NEJC Chamber, on its website, I am an ENFP personality. I enjoy interacting with people from various segments of society. With most of my working career centered in sales and marketing, I have always sought to have win-win-win situations. As a councilmember, the first win will focus upon the residents benefiting, the second win is the City of Roeland Park benefitting, and the third win represents my satisfaction for the residents and the city, benefiting from my efforts.

From the outside, looking in, at the Roeland Park city council, it appears that there have been two main types of people who have become immersed in seeking to be elected to our city council. One type seeks to be an agent for introducing outside influences into the policy making arena. These individuals can be from both sides of the political divide. The second type seeks to represent the residents of his/her ward, in providing the basics of safety, maintenance and repair, and stability, to satisfy both the current residents and businesses, and to attract new residents and businesses to our city. I seek to bring balance to Ward 4, representing the residents, by focusing upon being the second type of councilmember.

With this dynamic, it can be a challenge for those in each camp to create an environment that fosters collegiality. During my visits with residents of Ward 4, the number one issue has been a concern about ever-increasing property taxes. This coincides with my primary reason for becoming a candidate for the city council. The number two issue expressed, has been a concern of what I call ‘division by inclusion’. Many residents seek a balance on the city council that hasn’t existed for several years. A win-win-win scenario requires individuals from both camps being open to exploring the possibilities that might exist, for the benefit of the residents and businesses that call Roeland Park home.

If elected, I will endeavor to work with everyone on the city council, listening to, and processing their perspectives, while balancing these perspectives with my primary responsibility of representing the residents in Ward 4. I envision our city being the envy of residents throughout the metro, because the city council listens to, and represents, its residents, and isn’t caught up in the homogenization that is sweeping the metro.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item three:

The ACLU of Kansas recently made a presentation before the city council suggesting that the city should adopt a policy that city resources would not be used to aid federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in immigration enforcement actions. Do you support the adoption of such a policy? Why or why not?

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