Westwood Hills City Council candidates on the issues: Biggest issues facing the city

In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for the Westwood Hills City Council address.

Based on your feedback, we developed a three-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to the citizens of Westwood Hills.

We’re publish the candidates’ responses to one question per day. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following:

What is the biggest issue facing Westwood Hills today, and what should the city’s government be doing to address it?

Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on the issue:

Council member at-large

Rosemary Podrebarac (incumbent)

As an older fully developed city, I believe one of the biggest issues facing Westwood Hills is the ongoing maintenance and possible upgrading of the City’s existing infrastructure. The City is responsible for the maintenance of not only the aesthetic items visible within the City but also the streets and sidewalks within the City as well as the storm water system. All of these necessary items of infrastructure require both ordinary, preventive maintenance as well as reactive maintenance and repair when an asset fails or requires further maintenance to function as intended.

In connection with addressing these maintenance issues, the City must continue to monitor its finances carefully to be able to budget and pay for maintenance projects. With a very small retail area, real property taxes account for the majority of the City’s income. The City Council needs to watch the City’s finances carefully and keep any increases in real property taxes to a minimum, while still being able to pay for all required maintenance within the City, as well as any requested improvements to City infrastructure. Over the past few years, the Council has been working to create a capital improvement fund to provide for long-term maintenance of City-owned capital assets. By doing so, the City is hoping to reserve monies from each budget year to utilize in paying for its maintenance efforts without having to seek high cost financing options or having to defer maintenance projects for extended periods of time while acquiring the necessary funding.

David Schmitz

With any long history comes the need for maintenance and upkeep.  The homes in WWH are beautiful and many are in need of repairs and updating.  The good thing is that the homeowners are all very amenable to these improvements.  The tougher part is going through all of the planning and zoning policies to update and stay current, while keeping the appropriate historic feeling for the city.  We are very fortunate to have many residents that lend their time and expertise to review these projects to determine if they meet code, it’s time for the city to modernize the codes.

Karen Shelor Sexton (incumbent)

Noteworthy is that Westwood Hills is very proactive about planning, saving for and executing infrastructure projects – now and over the next 3-4 years. Therefore, our planning has prevented us from having any unexpected or crisis problems that need to be addressed. The one issue of importance to address or revitalize is Westwood Hills’s commitment to “community”. Westwood Hills is a very small city located within Johnson County. Our paid staff consists of one part-time Clerk. We contract our other municipal services with other municipalities or private companies. We also rely heavily on the expertise and hundreds of hours of volunteer time of our residents to stretch our City tax dollars. Over the last two years we have had a huge turnover of residences and yet have been isolated due to COVID restrictions. It is critical that when time and science allow that we revitalize our community activities so as to re-energize and revitalize our tradition of having a small town atmosphere within an urban location.

Ed Gogol (incumbent)

An aging population makes it challenging for some homeowners to address maintenance issues with their properties, or even to identify some of these problems. The city, presumably primarily through the building inspector, needs to identify burgeoning problems early on, have conversations with the residents involved, and determine if the city itself can and should assist with some issues.

Michael Anfang (incumbent)

Did not respond

Ludwig Villasi (incumbent)

Did not respond

On Wendesday, we’ll publish candidates’ responses the following question:

Climate change continues to be top of mind for many Shawnee Mission Post readers. What steps can Westwood Hills take to prepare neighborhoods for increased flooding, along with extreme heat and drought events? What steps would you like to see the city take to build climate resilience?