Water One board candidates on the issues: Qualifications and motivation for running

Jay Senter - October 23, 2019 2:34 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 three-item questionnaire for candidates running for WaterOne board address.

Today we publish the candidates’ responses to item one:

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What relevant experience would you bring to the position, and what is your primary motivation for seeking a seat on the water district board?

Water District Board Member 1

Terry Frederick (incumbent)

Every candidate running for the WaterOne Board wants to provide clean water to our customers. Having served on the Board for many years, I know what it takes to provide safe clean reliable high-quality water to our customers. My experience on the Board and participation in the American Water Works Association including their Public Officials sessions over the years have allowed me to stay updated on advances in water treatment processes and technology to provide safe drinking water to our customers. As a Certified Public Accountant, I have used my business background to work with our qualified and dedicated staff at WaterOne to produce high-quality water, maintain and replace the older water infrastructure, manage growth, provide the customer service you expect and operate in a sustainable manner while also having the lowest water cost in the metro area.

My past and current leadership and service experiences include the Prairie Village City Council, unit and district leader in Boy Scouts, providing service to those in need though the Lions Club and my church, and serving the community on the Theatre in the Park Advisory Board and the Kansas City Chapter Board of the KU Alumni Association. I also participated in the Leadership Kansas and Leadership Northeast programs to learn more about statewide and local issues. I have held leadership positions in several national business organizations in the tax field.

After moving to Johnson County in 5th grade with my family, I have lived here continuously other than my time in college at the University of Kansas. Johnson County is an incredible place to live and raise a family. It continues to win national rankings as a great place to live. One of the reasons people want to live here are the services available to our residents. One of these services is water. A safe clean reliable high-quality water supply is very important to our community. You drink it and cook with it. You shower or bathe in it. You use it for cleaning and laundry. You use it outside at the pool or in the yard. Water is a small, but important part of what makes our community a great place to live.

I would appreciate your vote on November 5th so I can continue to serve our community and ensure that WaterOne will meet your water needs now and in the future. Thank you for your support and vote! Terry

Melanie Kraft

After completing my undergraduate degrees in Biology and Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, I worked for two years in a Biochemistry laboratory using the same equipment that WaterOne uses to test for contaminants. No other board member has this training and experience in biochemistry or biochemical testing. I completed my Medical School training at University of Texas Medical School in Houston, TX at the Texas Medical Center , the largest medical complete in the world, where MD Anderson is located. I completed my family medicine residency program in Kansas City, MO at Trinity Lutheran Family Medicine Residency Program.

After 27 years of practicing medicine as a family physician, I know that there is nothing more important than clean air and clean water to your healthcare. As a family physician, I have spent my entire career teaching and educating patients about their health and healthcare. I have experience and training in diseases, bacteria, algae, fungal and viral infections, and biochemistry that no one else on the board has. I want to use that training and experience to enhance your knowledge about ensuring your water supply system because clean, safe water is a building block to good health. On the WaterOne corporate board, I can help educate large numbers of our population, instead of serving patients one by one as I have for 27 years as a family physician.

I obtained my MBA from Rockhurst University in Kansas City in 2007 because I wanted to know more about the administrative side of healthcare. Furthermore, I have also incorporated Occupational Medicine in my medical practice by obtaining additional training as a Medical Review Officer for DOT (the U.S. Department of Transportation) drug testing,

FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which deals with truck drivers, bus drivers, railroad workers, etc.) DOT Medical Examiner, and FAA Aviation Medical Examiner.

I have been an Overland Park resident for 25 years and my unique training and experience would enhance the WaterOne Board in ways in which I hope will ensure clean and safe water for you, your children and your grandchildren. I will use my skills that I used to succeed in medicine to now focus on water education and conservation of our natural resources.

Water District Board Member 2

Greg Mitchell


Educationally, I hold a Bachelor degree in Computer Information Systems from Colorado State University, a Master degree in Health Services Administration from the University of Kansas Medical Center; and a Master degree of Business Administration/Operations Management from the University of Missouri – Kansas City.

Professionally, I have spent the last 25 years working in health care serving several different capacities within finance and operations. I bring a wealth of experience managing CAPEX (Capital Expenditures) and OPEX (Operational Expenditures) within some of the most highly complex healthcare organizations in our region. I have developed and analyzed business plans and I know the pitfalls of forecasting and projections.

The most important thing I bring to the table is a combination of business acumen, understanding of scientific concepts and a lack of historical bias. There is something to be said for tenure, but the board has too many members who have served twenty plus years. And while I find that level of service and years of dedication laudable, I also understand that there is an inherent bias which lead people to vest too much in the status quo.

My motivation for seeking a seat on the water board is that I am interested in serving and I am interested in good governance. Additionally, I do not believe that a seat on the water board should be a life-long appointment. The incumbent (for position 2) has served the board for 24 years with little or no competition. I think it is time to add a fresh perspective to the board. Additionally, I am concerned about the phenomena in Johnson county whereby individuals hold municipal and legislative seats simultaneously. My opponent for WaterOne board is also my current State Senator. There is no reason for service to be consolidated into the hands of a few people. I know that Johnson County has many individuals who are qualified to serve; I am one of those people.

I have lived in Kansas City for nearly 25 years but I grew up and spent the early part of my life in Denver. When you come from a place that averages 17” of rain per year, you appreciate that water is scarce and precious. To me, water has a similar level of awareness as public schools. For someone with my background who is interested in serving, running for the water board is as natural as running for the school board.

Robert Olson (incumbent)

Based on my skills I have developed being a part of many boards and elected positions, I am confident that I can continue to provide value to the WaterOne board and the customers we serve. In the past 8900 days, I have been a part of serving on the WaterOne board. I have served as a two time Chairman, Vice chairman of the board, and chairman of many other committees. I have been a part of the AWWA board and taken many seminars on learning the finances, treatment process, water loss, and much more.

I also served in the Kansas State House for 6 years and was a two time Majority Whip. I have served 9 years in the Kansas State Senate where I served as Utilities Committee Chair, Legislative Post Audit Chair, Financial Institutions and Insurance, and various other committees that have helped with my experience.

In my person life I have been a board member at Bank of the Prairie for the past 11 years. I also own a real estate company that develops multi-family housing. I have been a lifelong resident of Kansas and raised my family in Johnson County.

I choose to continue to run for the WaterOne board because I enjoy serving the people of my community and working with them on the issues. My top priorities are to supply the people with the safest water that meets and exceeds all federal and state regulations. I want our water to be available at the lowest cost with the best customer service now and in the future. It is my mission everyday that we continue to provide these services, our employees do a good job for the community, and that we provide a safe work environment for each employee working at WaterOne.

Water District Board Member 6

Dave Vander Veen

I have spent over thirty years working as a commercial banking executive. Prior to entering banking I spent over ten years on active duty as a member of the United States Air Force. I earned a B.S. in Business/Finance from Utica College of Syracuse University. I believe success is measured by what an individual has actually accomplished in the past and presently, not simply by a degree one possess or from a certification received after attending a twelve hour seminar. I have been attending monthly WaterOne board meetings, finance committee meetings and administrative meetings since February and have gotten to know the WaterOne management team so that when elected I can hit the ground running.

During my time in the Air Force I served in an operational role with the Tactical Air Command. I was responsible for managing individuals and assets in a high stress air defense environment both nationally and internationally. Achieving success meant that I had to effectively interact with both my peers serving in other U.S. military branches and those from other countries, in order to accomplish the mission.

My current role is President, Chief Commercial Officer, and Board Member, of Freedom Bank in Overland Park, KS. Freedom Bank opened its doors on June 19, 2006 and is locally owned and managed. The bank has supported locally owned, privately held businesses by providing over $250 million in commercial loans since opening the doors. My role requires that I possess the skills to actively engage in the following: business development/portfolio management; asset/liability management; annual business planning, which includes developing the budget and then achieving it; business continuity planning; personnel management; enterprise risk management; project planning, launch and success; vendor management; and conflict resolution.

Based on the skill set I have developed, I am confident I will provide value to the team at WaterOne and to the customers. Clearly, everyone wants a sustainable source of clean and safe drinking water. Prior to deciding to run for this seat, I mentioned to friends that I was searching for a way to give back to the community and it was suggested that given my skill set, serving on the WaterOne board would be great way to do this. My wife and I moved our family to the area in 1992 and it is our home.

Whitney Wilson

Relevant Experience: I am the only certified Public Water Official by the American Water Works Association running in the WaterOne race. Certified Public Water Official training provides policy and budget education to professionals on water and sewer operating environments, source water, system components, operations, maintenance, and asset management. Public Water Officials also have an understanding of the regulatory environment and system metrics to reduce risk and improve decision making.

As a Population Health Executive at Cerner, I work with Healthcare Clients who are focused on keeping the communities they interact with healthy. Public health themes and working with Clients through complex budget considerations are integral to my daily work. The majority of healthcare costs stem from personal behaviors, socio-economic conditions, and changes to the environmental. Thus, clean air and clean water are prerequisites for a healthy community.

Also, I have community board experience serving on the board of The Hispanic Chamber of Greater Kansas City and ReDiscover Mental Health Foundation. I received my Executive M.B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and completed my undergraduate degree in International Affairs and Spanish from Marquette University.

Primary Motivation: I have two motivations for running for the WaterOne board.

First, the rapidly changing climate requires active leadership to protect our water supply and ensure our water is clean for our community to drink. Water is a scarce commodity that will become increasingly so. Additional sustainability measures will need to be applied.

Second, since the 1980’s American’s have dealt with a sharp decline in water infrastructure improvements. Decaying infrastructure and poor planning triggered lead poisoning and legionnaires disease in Flint, Michigan. All of this was 100% preventable. At least 500,000 children across the country have elevated levels of lead in their system today. This outcome is unacceptable for our families.

On October 10th, the EPA was ordered to roll back requirements on lead testing and infrastructure resolution that will endanger our population’s health. We need to continue testing for traditional contaminants, and we also need to do strategic testing for other factors that have reached water supplies. Heavy metals, farm chemical runoff, endocrine disruptors, HABs, PFAS, micro-plastics, etc. do not belong in any water supply. As your WaterOne board member, I will work to exceed the national standards and abide by the training I received by the AWWA.

Ullyses Wright

I am a graduate of Langston University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Agriculture Economics. My past work experiences provided great training, and developed skill sets for serving as Board Member at Water District 1. While employed as an Oklahoma State University County Extension Agent, I served on a committee studying the water table of the Ogallala Aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States. Also as a Senior Sales Representative for BASF Corporation in the state of Kansas I promoted conservation practices that reduced chemical runoff into the streams and waterways. As a former US Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works employee we received training that included water resource development, flood risk management, recreation, infrastructure and environmental stewardship. More recently as a Supplier Diversity Specialist at Sprint, I worked to ensure Small and Diverse Vendors were certified, and any Sprint spend could then be counted as Diverse Spend.

Having clean safe drinking water, and being a good Steward is all our responsibility. Let us not forget Flint, Michigan, and now Newark, New Jersey. Clean drinking water is important to everyone’s health, and that is why I am a candidate for Board Member Position #6 at Water District 1 of Johnson County, Kan.

Water District Board Member 7

Mark Parkins (incumbent)

I am an engineer by degree and have spent my entire career in the water industry. I have interacted with Owners (such as WaterOne, BPU, Topeka and Omaha, etc.), Engineers (such as Black & Veatch, Burns & McDonnell, GBA, etc.), contractors and water works distributors. Additionally, I worked in the water treatment chemical industry and have personal knowledge about additives that go into public water systems. My expertise spans the Plains States and my knowledge about municipal water systems in the region is extensive. Simply said, I know water and water systems.

My motivation as a Board Member at WaterOne is to serve the public. My parents were involved in public service as leaders in developing one of the largest YMCAs in the northeast. They set an example of public service that I know I can carry forward in my service to WaterOne as a Board member. I do not pursue this position to seek other office. I am a water expert with opinions and experience in behalf of the ratepayers, for the benefit of WaterOne.

As an adult resident in Johnson County for more than 37 years, I have made my home and career in this area. I know how important a role WaterOne has played in the growth and progress of Johnson County. Safe, plentiful and economical water is accepted as a given. That would not be the case without good guidance, leadership and just plain hard work from the Board and all the employees of WaterOne. I intend to build on that foundation with long range planning that will continue our success and nationally recognized sustainability.

Chris Stelzer

I have a mechanical engineering degree from Iowa State University. I have experience evaluating processes or equipment to meet performance requirements and cost effectiveness. I believe my technical training along with an almost compulsive curiosity would be well suited to act on a board charged with overseeing such a critical component of public health and safety.

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