I am thankful for your support over the past four years in our service to the community. I consider it a tremendous privilege to have your trust and hope that this trust is still valued. I humbly request the favor of your continued support for me in my quest for a second term as your County Commissioner.
Four years ago, my promises to you were:
- To complete the Bourbon County Law Enforcement Center construction contract on time and within budget, leveraging my skills as a professional engineer. This construction contract was valued at 6.8 million and was executed without any significant change orders.
- To benchmark our county’s financial performance with like-sized Kansas counties. These comparisons helped in budgeting, compensation and forecasting.
- To improve accountability and transparency, specifically with the Garland Fire Department. That Department is once again performing to the satisfaction of its constituents.
The biggest challenges over this term were the restructuring of healthcare, the wind turbines, and the pandemic. Healthcare is 17.5% of our economy and our community was facing the realization that our hospital was closing. Fortunately, our county commission worked with Mercy and two key providers were recruited to ensure continuity of care. The anticipated decline of property values did not occur.
Mercy donated an ambulance service to Bourbon County to provide this service. After comparing several nearby county models’ organizational structure for ambulance service, we ultimately patterned ours like the Allen County model. Bourbon county contracts with Fort Scott for $1,020,000 annually for operating this service and the county collects the fees. We were able to keep this service local for about half the cost to taxpayers in comparison to our northern neighbor, Linn County.
Civic leader Bill Brittan approached the county commission with the concept of a Healthcare Mall. He believed that with three anchor tenants, this property would be a viable, self-sustaining community resource that could attract medical professionals, students, and patients into our community. Two of the anchors appeared to be already in place, those being Community Health Centers of South East Kansas and Ascension Via Christi. The county commission felt that another anchor tenant was needed to make this sustainable.
Last September, Nathan Fawson of the Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center requested a tour of the Mercy Hospital building. Since that time, the concept of a regional behavioral crisis center has been explored and pitched in Topeka. Preliminary discussions with State and Federal behavioral health providers were initiated, linking these services with FSCC’s Nursing Program. Unfortunately, the pandemic has hampered the development of these proposals into letters of intent.
I have learned a great deal as we engaged the prospect of wind turbines in our county. I regret that this issue was so divisive, pitting neighbor against neighbor. I also carry remorse for some of my own off-the-cuff conduct during our commission meetings. I’ve learned that Truth is a precious commodity and that Trust must be earned.
Looking ahead, there are serious challenges that we face as a county. Our tax rate on urban commercial property is 5%. A comparison of the rate with local counties in our area, we find that Labette County (Parsons) is the only county in southeast Kansas that is higher at 5.3%. Crawford County is 3.8%. At 5%, a commercial property owner pays in property taxes the value of his property every 20 years and at 4%, 25 years. We must work to improve our stewardship or lucrative commercial ventures may bypass our community.
During KDOT’s regional meetings, I have provided them testimony in the shaping of their vision. In my opinion, completing 69 as a four-lane through Pittsburg and connecting to the Oklahoma Turnpike is vital to our long term growth strategy. In a way, we are competing against 169 in connecting Kansas City to Dallas with a future interstate.
On a personal note, I am 59 years old and have been married to Gloria Fischer for 30
years. She serves our veterans as a physician. Together, we have four children—Joseph, Mary, Noah, and Benjamin. Joseph graduated from K-State as a mechanical engineer and works for an ag tech company, 360 Yield. The other three are learning at KU and Washburn. They cherish our community and hope to return to serve here.
I am a licensed Professional Engineer with Bachelor and Master Degrees in civil engineering. My academic research experience revolves around bridge rehabilitation and I’ve presented this topic at the national American Society of Civil Engineers conference. I have a great deal of heavy construction experience as well as skills for solving complex problems. Along with my wife, I have some experience in the medical service sector also.
Our family delights in serving the public sector. We’re builders and we love this county and its people. If I have your trust and confidence, I would humbly ask for your vote for County Commissioner.